Saving America with an Implemented Zika Vaccine Plan

tiger-mosquito-49141_640 (2)By Jerrisa Ching

On June 28, Australian professional golfer, Jason Day, declines the honorable participation in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Why did he miss this opportunity? The answer here is simple: Zika virus. Day mentions that “the reason for my decision is my concerns about the transmission of the…virus and the potential risks that it might present to my wife’s future pregnancies and to future members of our family. While it has always been a major goal to compete in the Olympics…playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family”. Day provides a reasonable explanation to declining the Olympics. And who is to blame him? The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease that is commonly transmitted through Aedes mosquito bites, sexual intercourse, and pregnancy. The virus poses risks to newborns with microcephaly, a condition where a newborn’s head is smaller than the average size, and other brain development issues in movement, balance, and vision.

The Zika virus is becoming a growing global threat that is in need of attention. The U.S. House and Senate are currently fighting for a bill that will combat the virus. The U.S. House originally approved a $1.1 billion bill for vaccine and treatment development. However, Senate members, like Harry Reid, opposed the bill due to budget cuts in health care programs like Obamacare and Planned Parenthood and even funds from the past Ebola issue. The bill was soon blocked on the same Tuesday that Jason Day declined the Rio Olympics. Despite this funding concern, we need these funds to address the current issue at hand. In the United States, there are approximately 819 travel-associated cases reported since June 29, 2016. These statistics may seem negligible now, but the numbers won’t stop increasing until America responds to this public health issue. To address the spread of the Zika Virus, the United States needs to implement a Zika vaccine plan into the nation’s health system.

Implementation of the Zika vaccine plan will optimize health for all Americans. The Zika virus can affect all age groups with symptoms that range from mild fevers and rashes and relates to severe diseases like Microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The vaccine plan will especially impact the safety of pregnant women and those who intend to become pregnant in the future. Research Institutions at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), and University of Sao Paulo have already devised two Zika vaccine candidates in Brazil. The vaccines included a DNA-based and inactive Zika virus form for testing on laboratory mice. After vaccination, the mice were exposed to a second Zika virus and were shown to have complete protection from the exposure. This finding suggests that the vaccine candidates are potentially feasible in humans.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) intends to bring these Zika virus vaccine candidates to market immediately with the help of a global pharmaceutical company called Emergent BioSolutions Inc. The company has been given permission to use $21.9 million for vaccine development with materials provided by Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The funding will expand more studies and vaccine technologies to develop vaccines in humans. The collaboration between Emergent BioSolutions Inc., ASPR, and BARDA will also extend to human clinical trials to assess the vaccines. With the current information and vaccine development activities underway, implementation of a vaccine plan will prepare people to face the Zika virus.

But do we have enough information to push forward with a Zika vaccine plan? Dan Barouch of BIDMC states that “there are [still] plenty of unanswered questions” about the Zika vaccine. Barouch brings up the fact that although the Zika vaccine provides immunity towards the virus, we still don’t know how long the immunity will last. This uncertainty can be an issue since a short immunity period will mean that the country will require frequent vaccination schedules that will require more expenses to pay for vaccine development and administration.

Another uncertainty is how contagious the Zika virus can become. According to a Zika study on monkeys, the Zika virus can be present in various body fluids like blood, saliva, and urine. As mentioned before, the virus can be transmitted through mosquito bites. However, sexual intercourse and pregnancy are also possible routes for transmission. The fact that the virus can survive in different physiological conditions may suggest big concerns for everyone. However, the gap of uncertainty to answer these unknown questions may not be a bad thing. The implementation of a vaccine plan will provide opportunities to obtain more information to answer these questions. Since the U.S. ASPR is already contributing funds to vaccine development, we will be able to respond to these uncertainties with a better comprehension of what the Zika virus is and how to face the virus ourselves.

The implementation of a Zika vaccine plan will also reduce the public’s fear of the virus. According to Miami OB-GYN, Dr. Christine Curry, many clients ask about how what the Zika virus means for planning a family. Should women avoid pregnancy for a while? Or should women get pregnant right away before the virus spreads further? The implementation of a Zika vaccine plan will address the public’s fear through confidence that they will be protected with a vaccine. The vaccine plan will avoid forceful decisions to abort any children who are suspected to have the Zika virus. In the face of important family matters, an implemented Zika vaccine plan will expand knowledge and options for pregnant women to make important decisions for their families.

The Zika vaccine plan will also reduce travelers’ fear to explore countries that are affected by the Zika virus. Travel agencies have recently noticed that there have been slow bookings and cancellations of trips to South America. Steve Born, Vice President of Marketing for the Globus Family of Brands, states that the Zika virus has a “dampening effect” on the Latin American travel market. People don’t want to risk the chances of contracting the virus, as Jason Day mentioned before. Hence, implementation of a Zika vaccine plan can reduce this fear with reassurance that they will be protected while traveling. The public shouldn’t lose the life time chances to travel to countries that they desire. People deserve to travel safely to any place, regardless of whether the Zika virus is present or not. By having a Zika vaccine plan available to the public, travelers can chose the vaccine option prior to their travelling endeavors. For travelers, the vaccine plan will make them less anxious to pursue places that have the Zika virus.

The United States demands implementation of a Zika vaccine plan that will address the current public health emergency. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) current warning about the virus is that they “anticipate that Zika will get to the United States. Hospitals, clinics…need to start educating patients preemptively about what we know about Zika, what the effect on the baby is, and what can you do to prevent mosquito bites”. It is a goal to ensure that people have a health option and confidence that they are protected from the Zika virus. People deserve a vaccine option that will fight against the increasing spread of the virus. The implementation of a Zika vaccine plan is necessary to provide information that will increase the confidence and lower the fear that the Zika virus illuminates. Pregnant women, infants, and our loved ones are in need of a Zika vaccine that will devour the deadly consequences of this virus. If we don’t respond fast, the Zika virus will continue to spread across the country with worse circumstances. By implementing a Zika vaccine plan into our country’s system, we can face the Zika virus together with improved health and confidence.



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