An announcement today that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved the first human trials of a Zika Virus vaccine is wonderful news for those facing the effects of the virus -and a reminder that medicine should seek to heal and protect, not get rid of those who are afflicted.

CDC/ Prof. Frank Hadley Collins, Dir., Cntr. for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, Univ. of Notre Dame acquired from Public Health Image Library

“We are proud to have attained the approval to initiate the first Zika vaccine study in human volunteer,” said Dr. J. Joseph Kim, President & CEO of the vaccine developer, Inovio, “the incidences of viral infection and medical conditions caused by the virus are expanding, not contracting. We plan to dose our first subjects in the next weeks and expect to report phase I interim results later this year.”


The news is a ray of hope in a nearly hemisphere-wide outbreak that only seems like it’s getting worse: Zika has been confirmed in more than 50 countries and territories; the virus is spreading rapidly across  the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and may soon find favorable conditions along Gulf Coast cities in the U.S.; and physicians from around the world have voiced concerns that the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will risk not only the athletes’ health, but risk transmitting the virus to new areas around the world.

It is refreshing and necessary to see organizations respond to the virus with plans for the positive prevention of infection, rather than a push for abortion, particularly as scientists learn more troubling facts about the virus: while the CDC has confirmed that Zika infections can cause microcephaly, a birth defect that causes small heads and can also cause various developmental delays, the research organizations have also discovered that the virus can cause severe neurological diseases in adults like acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and Guillain- Barré syndrome. Abortion won’t cure the babies suffering from Zika infections, it will only get rid of them, nor will it treat patients suffering from the initial infection, or provide adequate medical care in rural or developing regions to the adults facing the long-term effects of Zika. Hopefully, if the vaccine proves effective, this, and other research steps focusing on prevention of the virus’s spread and ability to hurt humans, can help stop this scary virus’s spread in its tracks.