Zika Vaccine could be Ready before 2016 Ends
A Canadian scientist who is a part of a coalition that is working on creating a vaccine for the Zika virus stated that a vaccine could potentially be available for emergency use before 2016 ends.
According to Gary Kobinger, who spoke with Reuters (via the New York Daily News), a vaccine could enter first-stage testing in humans by August. If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective, it could be used in the following months if health officials decide that there is a public health emergency.
"The first thing is to be ready for the worst," Kobinger said. "This vaccine is easy to produce. It could be cranked to very high levels in a really short time."
"I believe this will be the first to go into human testing. We believe we're ahead of the pack in the race for a Zika vaccine," Joseph Kim, the chief executive of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, added.
Kobinger, who is from Quebec City's Laval University and Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, is working with Inovio, the University of Pennsylvania and GeneOne Life Science in Korea on the vaccine.
U.S. officials have stated that they have two potential options that could be used to help create a vaccine that would also be tested by the end of the year. The officials stressed, however that it would take years before a vaccine can be made widely available.
The Zika virus, which is transmitted via the mosquito, has been spreading throughout the Americas. Although an infection is typically mild, there has been evidence that an infection might be tied to a birth defect called microcephaly. In Brazil, since the virus was first reported around the beginning of the summer, there have been more than 4000 suspected cases of microcephaly.
"Zika virus was this obscure disease in parts of Africa and South Pacific, and it wasn't a priority on anyone's radar screen," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said reported by Huffington Post. "Now with the clear evidence of microcephaly, this is a big deal."
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the virus is "spreading explosively." The agency added that the virus is expected to affect up to four million people and could possibly be detected in all countries in the Americas with the exception of Canada and Chile.