There are new steps in the fight against Lyme disease.
Pfizer and Valneva are conducting a clinical trial for a vaccine, and it is now in phase three. Research is happening in Connecticut, at Stamford Health in Fairfield County.
About 6,000 people across the globe are taking part in the study, and that includes 20 at Stamford Hospital.
“OK, so it’s going to be an injection in your arm,” a medical professional administering a shot said to Mahrukh Hoda on Wednesday. “I’m going to have you relax.”
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It’s a drill that happens often: roll up the sleeve, a quick shot, and a bandage. But Hoda and her husband Zain aren’t getting a COVID-19 vaccine or the flu shot. They are part of the clinical trial for the Pfizer-Valneva Lyme disease vaccine.
“I mean I’m feeling pretty good,” Mahrukh Hoda said.
On Wednesday, they signed consent and got their first shots.
“It’s great, glad to be done with the first dose!” Zain Hoda said
Contributing to this research at Stamford means a lot to the Hoda family.
“Last year, my 7-year-old actually got Lyme disease,” Zain Hoda explained.
A side effect known as Lyme arthritis sent their son Reza to the hospital
“We have two kids and my wife had to stay home with one of them,” Zain Hoda said. “So it was just me in the hospital with my son for five days.”
“It’s a very traumatic experience for him because he had to have surgery, his knee got infected,” Mahrukh Hoda added. “It's probably one of the worst experiences we've had as a family.”
Now the family wants to prevent something like this from happening again.
“It was a very kind of emergency situation,” Mahrukh Hoda said. “I don't want to go through that again with my other son.”
It’s why they will be rolling up their sleeves for the next two-and-a-half years, taking part in the global clinical trial being conducted in places where Lyme disease is highly endemic, like Connecticut.
“When it becomes late in the course and hasn't been aggressively treated upfront, it can produce all sorts of problems: neurological disease, heart disease, prolonged fatigue, brain fog. Patients lives are incredibly disrupted,” Dr. Michael Parry, chair of Infectious Diseases at Stamford Health, said.
Dr. Parry said although 20 people in Connecticut are part of the clinical trial, their goal is to get 90 to 100 signed up.
They will receive four doses over the next 30 months. Some will get the new vaccine, while others will receive a placebo.
“We will be following them with history, clinical symptoms, evidence of Lyme disease, blood tests, to evaluate how well this vaccine protects them against Lyme disease,” Dr. Parry said.
He says if the clinical trial is successful, the timeline for when regulators would look at approving the vaccine would be in 2026 or 2027.
“If a vaccine is 80 to 90 percent protective, it still would be a huge advance in the prevention of Lyme disease,” Dr. Parry said.
Each visit to the hospital is worth it to the Hodas, who are driven by their son’s experience.
“He was absolutely brave, and has bounced back completely from that experience,” Zain Hoda said.
Also, driven by the hope that they can help save other families from a similar scare.
“We need people to be part of the research,” Mahrukh Hoda said. “I definitely wouldn't want any other parent to go through what we went through”
Researchers at Stamford Hospital are still seeking more pediatric participants, so they can gather enough data about how this vaccine works for kids. Participants for this study must be at least 5 years old.