Fentanyl vaccine could prevent opioid drug overdoses

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:56 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A new vaccine in the works could help fight metro Atlanta’s opioid crisis. From 2019 to 2021, fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in Georgia increased by 232%.

Jocelyn Wallace is a recovered heroin addict who has been sober now for six years.

RELATED: Fentanyl crisis through the eyes of a mother.

“This is a pandemic and it’s taking people like me out day in and day out,” Wallace said.

But her road to recovery was beyond difficult. She initially got hooked on pain meds at the age of 16 following a car accident. Soon after, it was heroin, and her life began to spiral out of control.

“I’ve overdosed countless, countless times, over 21 and today I’m the executive director of a recovery community organization because my life was saved with Narcan,” Wallace said.

Two years ago, she founded the never-alone clubhouse in Douglasville. It’s a peer support non-profit dedicated to assisting people with recovery.

“I speak out loud, so others don’t have to die quietly because it doesn’t need to be a taboo. Recovery is expected, recovery is real,” Wallace said.

The statistics are staggering, more than 150 people die every day from an opioid overdose and now a research team led by the University of Houston has developed a vaccine targeting the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl that could block its ability to enter the brain.

“You get our vaccine, and you develop antibodies against fentanyl. These antibodies bind to fentanyl if it is consumed and prevent it from getting into the brain where it may trigger euphoric centers or trigger respiratory depression and opioid overdose death. We feel this in combination with present treatments will be a game changer,” Colin Haile at the University of Houston said.

The breakthrough discovery could have major implications for the nation’s opioid epidemic by becoming a relapse prevention agent for people trying to quit using opioids.

“The number of lives that it could change, touch and save there’s probably no way to put a number on that,” Wallace said.