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We asked experts why there is no vaccine for the West Nile virus

Posted at 6:13 PM, Jul 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-25 12:19:13-04

CENTRAL TEXAS — With the Center of Disease Control (CDC) reporting West Nile infected mosquitoes in several counties in the state of Texas, we reached out to experts to understand why a human vaccine is not yet available, even though a veterinary vaccine has been in use for year.

Maria Elena Bottazzi, Ph.D., FASTMH, the Associate Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine from Baylor's College of Medicine in Houston explained "it is a really major hurdle especially in the United States to develop new vaccine technology which are specifically for these neglected and emerging diseases...we tend to be very reactive rather than proactive...it requires, you know, a crisis for us to be able to respond."

Specifically discussing the development of a West Nile vaccine, Doctor Bottazzi further explained, "I'm sure they're having a hardship getting the funding to do what we call the advanced clinical development...I mean we're talking in the range of hundreds of millions even billions of dollars."

And that is exactly what the family of Cody Hopkins, the 13-year-old Central Texas boy who succumbed to West Nile in 2016, keeps getting told as the reason a vaccine is not yet available to the public.

Cody's grandmother, Rosalee Kibby said, "the sad thing is that its so preventable because there are vaccines out there...one doctor told us that he's been in front of congress twice to try to get funding for it and has been rejected twice...from what I understand is that the pharmaceutical companies do not think it would be profitable enough."

The Hopkins Family has been working with Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). She gave the following statement:

"As Chair of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, I take the emerging challenges of new infectious diseases very seriously. I was pleased to facilitate coordination between the Hopkins family and the Department of State Health Services which highlighted West Nile Virus as a health priority for our state. I will continue working with the Hopkins family and others on this important issue."
Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)

"This is the kind of things we need to do, right, raise the awareness, push such that there is a demand for finding more innovative solutions and how to accelerate the developments of these biologicals," Doctor Bottazzi said.