Behind the World’s Top Drugmakers’ Approach to Zika Vaccine
What if a drugmaker spent billions of dollars to create a vaccine — only to find out humans developed natural resistance to the disease before its product is ready?
That is part of the scenario GlaxoSmithKline Plc and other pharmaceutical giants are weighing in their cautious approach to developing a Zika vaccine.
Large portions of the populations in Zika-affected areas could develop immunity to the virus over the next five to 10 years, slowing its circulation into virgin areas, said Moncef Slaoui, chairman of London-based Glaxo’s vaccines division. That would make it harder to determine the market for a vaccine, which could be just stockpiled for outbreaks rather than used widely during national immunization campaigns.
Although fear of the virus remains high in the U.S. and its territories — where almost 300 pregnant women have shown signs of possible infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — lawmakers are pushing back on funding to fight it. Glaxo, Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson are all moving slowly, in contrast with their reaction to Ebola two years ago, when the drugmakers doubled down on developing a vaccine before their efforts stalled as the outbreak in West Africa waned.
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