ATLANTA — Doctors say fentanyl overdoses are hitting a crisis level in metro Atlanta. Now, there’s a potential breakthrough. It’s a vaccine that could stop the drug’s deadly side effects.
Researchers at the University of Houston are creating the fentanyl vaccine.
Scientists agree the vaccine would be a game-changer that not only helps drug addicts but those who often come into contact with drugs, like police, firefighters, and paramedics.
Stella Zine told Channel 2 investigative reporter Sophia Choi that she’s a former drug user who would consider the vaccine.
“Alcohol would be the downer and blackouts. Then, cocaine and speed would bring me back up,” Zine said.
She now helps others through the nonprofit Georgia Harm Reduction Coalition in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
Zine believes a fentanyl vaccine would help, but not everyone would take it.
“Some people would be hesitant because of fears. Not trusting the medicine from a provider but going to the street. I can relate with that,” Zine said.
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The Georgia Attorney General found from the years 2019 to 2021 fentanyl-involved deaths increased by 232.1%.
Doctors say just two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to cause death.
Researchers at the University of Houston believe they found a solution. It comes in a three-shot vaccine.
Instead of focusing on immunity, this one causes your body to develop antibodies to fentanyl.
The vaccine’s use could be three-fold: preventing a high, protection for first responders and for those buying street drugs.
“We’re finding fentanyl in drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ADHD drugs, and counterfeit anti-anxiety drugs. So, people are unknowingly consuming fentanyl and overdosing,” Dr. Colin Haile with the University of Houston told Choi.
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“Last year, more than 100,000 people died of drug poisoning, many of which were caused by fentanyl. That’s more than double the occupancy of Truist Park,” said Robert Murphy, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration Atlanta field division.
Dr. Mojgan Zare leads the Georgia Harm Reduction Coalition.
“The medications we have now are not addressing the opioid epidemic. We need a different strategy,” Zare said. “This vaccine is very promising.”
“We are seeing people die in front of us. Last year, we revived over 2,000 people in this area just because of overdoses, many of them associated with fentanyl,” Zare continued.
Currently, the vaccine is only being tested on rats. Those tests showed it works for about six months after the initial shot.
Researchers soon hope to begin human trials.
The goal is to get FDA approval and get the vaccine out to the public in the next three to four years.
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