UW Medicine researcher explains new vaccine in the works to prevent opioid overdoses

The fentanyl crisis is reaching and accelerating in every community. People are dying and families are being ripped apart.

What if there was a vaccination to prevent fentanyl and heroin overdoses?

We may be on the way to finding out.

UW Medicine researchers are set to start human clinical trials in a few months. On Tuesday, we had the man who is behind the development of the vaccines, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UW Medicine, Marco Pravetoni in our Live Studio.

Pravetoini said this vaccine could prevent drug users from getting high, but wouldn’t prevent the craving.

“We envision the vaccine could be combined with methadone to provide a treatment strategy for opioid use disorder,” he said.

Pravetoni said the shots would be like a course of immunizations with patients taking a shot every three months and then yearly shots.

We asked if the vaccine could potentially encourage more addiction.

“We know the availability of Narcan is not really encouraging people to overdose so we don’t see the vaccine enabling more use but rather help people to have more options,” he said.

Pravetoni said the vaccine has been tested against heroin and fentanyl and is on its way to being tested against oxycontin.

We asked what the timeline for the vaccine is.

“The timeline is always the difficult part,” said Pravetoni.

He said they’ve been working on the vaccine for over a decade and the fentanyl and heroin vaccine is moving much faster.

“Really it boils down to how many people you have, how much money you have, and the resources to make it happen,” he said.

Pravetoni said the vaccine could take up to 10 years before it’s released. But he sees the vaccine not only helping fentanyl and heroin users but also cocaine users and society in general.