Austin company looking for volunteers to test out Zika vaccine

Austin

An Austin research company is conducting a clinical trial in hopes of making vaccines against travel-borne illnesses like Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever a reality.

This news comes after two people in Williamson County tested positive for Zika last month. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the two contracted the virus while traveling abroad, becoming the first Zika cases in Texas this year.

Tekton Research says since 2016 when the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, there’s been a significant development in researching vaccines.

Zika is mosquito-borne, can spread from mother to fetus, and can cause birth defects.

Right now, high-risk areas include “Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia and Africa, and they’re now getting into the United States,” explained Paul Pickrell, medical director at Tekton Research.

He said, “It’s coming, and it’s only a matter of time before citizens in the U.S. are going to be subject to the same vectors.”

Zika made national headlines when an outbreak in Brazil led to many babies being born with birth defects. “Seeing that I think breaks the heart of every parent,” Pickrell said. “I think vaccine development is the single most important thing in public health in the last 100 years.”

Pickrell said the clinical trial is in the very early stages. They’re still looking for volunteers to receive the vaccine and come in periodically for blood tests.

“For them to be one of the early participants in the trial against a disease that I think is about ready to launch at much higher frequency in the U.S., they would protect themselves against potential exposure,” he said.

Pickrell said it’ll take five to 10 years to test and perfect the vaccine before it can become available to the public. 

Last year, there were more than 50 cases of Zika reported in Texas.

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