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Lyme Disease Vaccination: Now's The Time

People at risk for Lyme disease are being urged to become vaccinated.


Updated May 25, 2006

This article is part of the Arthritis Archives.

Editor note: In February 2002 the maker of LYMErix (the Lyme disease vaccine) announced they would stop producing the vaccine due to "insufficient consumer demand" The CDC reports, the protection provided by this vaccine does diminish over time. Therefore, if you received this Lyme disease vaccine before 2002, you are probably no longer protected against Lyme disease.

Dateline: March 10, 1999

Lyme Disease Vaccination

People at risk for Lyme disease are being urged to become vaccinated against the disease now, in preparation for the beginning of tick season this spring.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria which is transmitted via the bite of ticks that live on deer or white-footed mice. In rare cases, and if untreated, Lyme disease can lead to arthritis and neurological problems. This is the first year that there is a safe, effective, FDA-approved vaccine against Lyme disease available prior to tick season. The first Lyme disease vaccine, known as LYMErix, was approved in December 1998 by the FDA. A second vaccine, ImuLyme, is pending FDA approval.

The vaccine is approved for use as a series of three shots given over the course of a year. New studies now suggest that the three shots can effectively be given over a course of as little as eight weeks. The cost of the vaccine is about $60 per shot. It is expected to provide 80% protection for most adults. Future booster shots may be needed to maintain immunization.

Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the United States. Since 1991, over 115,000 cases have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of unreported cases could magnify that number dramatically. In terms of prevention, medical care and treatment, and absenteeism from work or school, the cost of Lyme disease to society may be $2.5 billion per year.

The disease is most common in the Northeast or mid-Atlantic states, especially coastal areas from Maine to Virginia. The vaccine should target people at highest risk. Children and adults between 30 and 59 years old are considered at highest risk. The vaccine, however, is not approved for use in children.

Two important facts to remember about Lyme disease:

  • A person does not have to be in the deep woods to become infected with the bacteria causing Lyme disease as once thought. It can even be contracted in the backyards of suburbia. Obviously though, tick-infested areas are most susceptible.
  • Since the vaccine is not fully protective, avoiding tick-infested areas, insect repellant, and protective clothing are still important measures to take.

    Related Resources

  • Lyme Disease
  • Guide To Lyme Disease
  • How To Protect Yourself Against Lyme Disease
  • Sources: Now is the best time for Lyme vaccination, by E.J. Mundell, ReutersHealth, 3/8/99; Scientific Experts To Present New Studies On Lyme Disease, PRNewswire, 3/8/99
    First published: 03/10/1999

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