Lyme Vaccine May Cause Problems

The Journal Times

Lyme vaccine may cause problems

July 31, 2000 12:00 am •

DEAR DR. GOTT: After I received my third dose of Lyme-disease vaccine, I developed pronounced pain and stiffness in my joints. I've never had arthritis before. Could the vaccine be to blame?

DEAR READER: According to an article in the New York Times (June 13, 2000), the Food and Drug Administration has received about 500 complaints from people who were given Lyme vaccine. Most of these complaints had to do with arthritis; several, however, concerned serious symptoms that caused permanent disability or life-threatening illness.

Furthermore, according to the Times, three patients have filed suit against the vaccine manufacturer, Smith Kline Beecham, contending that they suffered incapacitating arthritis from the product. Apparently, about 30 percent of the normal population has a particular genetic protein, called HLA-DR4, with which the vaccine interacts, leading to a tendency for the Lyme shot to cause the body to attack its own normal tissues, a type of auto-immune disorder.

To date, investigations concerning this alleged interaction are in their infancy. Nonetheless, Smith Kline Beecham has further refined the vaccine's warning labels: the product is not recommended for children under 15, adults over 70, people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease within the preceding three months and individuals with severe arthritis.

As a consequence, many doctors - who previously endorsed the vaccine enthusiastically - have adopted a wait-and-see approach. Other physicians, citing that no one knows the long-term consequences, are not recommending its use, except for adults in high-risk professions, such as foresters, surveyors and landscapers.

In answer to your quesion, yes, the vaccine could have caused your symptoms. However, this scenario has yet to play out, so I cannot make unequivocal recommendations to readers at large. I urge you (and other vaccine-recipients) to check with your own physician for further testing and advice if you appear to have developed symptoms from the product.

To give you more information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Understanding Osteoarthritis." Other readers should send $2 plus a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 2017, Murray Hill Station, New York, NY 10156. Be sure to mention the title.

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