WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Pennsylvania is known for a lot of things, including having the distinction of the most Lyme disease cases in the country. The CDC reports some 9,000 probable and confirmed cases statewide in 2019, the last year on record.

The breakdown on the tick-borne illness in the commonwealth is roughly one in every 100 Pennsylvanians.
There is no Lyme vaccine available, but that may change with the help of hundreds of northeastern Pennsylvanians.

Niklaus Schneider, of Wilkes-Barre, likes to explore Pennsylvania’s great outdoors.

“Sometimes I go fishing. Sometimes I just go hiking around the woods because nature around here especially is quite beautiful,” Schneider told us.

But a part of nature he tries to dodge are black-legged ticks and deer ticks which carry Lyme disease and can cause mild to severe illness.

“This is a big deal because we have a lot of ticks and stuff,” Schneider added.

Richard Blum, M.D. says “every step of these clinical trials is regulated.”

Dr. Blum’s office is among the nationwide sites participating in the final stage of Pfizer’s clinical trial of the vaccine VLA15.

“After several doses, causes the human who’s received the vaccine to develop antibodies and those antibodies enter the tick while the tick is feeding and actually kill the bacteria in the gut of the tick,” Blum explained.

Pfizer hopes to enroll some 6,000 healthy adults and children as young as 5 in the stage 3 trial which will soon begin in northeastern Pennsylvania under the supervision of Care Access.

“They also bring in a generator to keep this going in the event of a power failure,” Blum added.

Dr. Blum hopes to have a few hundred people enrolled at his office when the clinical trials begin.

“We’ll get some results and hopefully find that the vaccine is as promising as it seems to be from the first parts of the trial which have already taken place.”

A long-awaited Lyme vaccine to perhaps one day soon protect people whether they’re enjoying their backyard, at a lake, or in the woods.

“Well, it’s a pretty big deal you know, especially around here,” Blum said.

Dr. Blum expects to be ready to begin the Lyme vaccine clinical trials by the end of the month.

To learn more about the trials and how those willing to volunteer for the study will be paid for their participation, visit valorlymestudy.com.