Chlamydia Vaccine Progress – Fingers Crossed for the Future!

posted by: Jonathan Shaw

I saw this in the news the other day…

Yes. There was a spurt of media coverage this week into the success of a chlamydia vaccine trial. The NHS media feed,  the Guardian, and the BBC were some of many outlets promoting the success. The full publication from the Lancet Infectious Diseases is available here.

So what was successful?

This was an early phase “first-in-human” clinical trial. It studied just 40 women aged 19-45 years. The trial was assessing whether some new vaccines could promote an immune response (antibodies) against chlamydia. This is how vaccines work. You trick the immune system into thinking you have the infection and the body responds. The theory is then that the body will remember how to respond, and find it easier to fight the infection next time.

Chlamydia – Problem solved right?

Unfortunately not. It is important to remember these early studies are to get some initial signals only. The first is to check that the vaccine is safe ie. doesn’t harm the women receiving them. The second is that the immune system actually responds to the vaccines and produces the antibodies.

The vaccine then needs to go on a longer journey, taking years. It needs to be tested in larger numbers of people to see if it remains safe, but most importantly to see if these antibodies actually reduce your chance of catching chlamydia. Just having the antibodies there doesn’t mean you are protected. This is important as we know that catching chlamydia once doesn’t protect you against being infected again in the future.

So what can I do at the moment about chlamydia?

We recommend starting with these key components of good sexual health:

  • Regular and consistent condom use, especially with new partners
  • Consider condoms also for oral sex – chlamydia can be passed on and caught by oral sex
  • Regular STI testing – at least once a year or more often if you are changing partners
  • Lear more about chlamydia – check out our previous blog

Testing is strongly recommended for anyone who has caught chlamydia, ideally 3 months after completing treatment. This is not because we are worried the treatment doesn’t work. It is because large numbers of people are infected again.

Do I have to attend the clinic to test for chlamydia?

If you are under 25 years of age you may be able to access the National Chlamydia Screening Programme. Read more about accessing testing here.

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Accessing our service

In response to the emergence of COVID-19 we have implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

We are currently experiencing high demand for our Sexual Health Services across Devon and Torbay with unprecedented demand in Exeter. Please note always review urgent cases the same day. If your need is urgent and you are struggling to reach us keep trying as our phone system will explain how to access same-day care with us.

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception here.

Self-requested STI testing by post is available for those aged under 25- more info

We are now running an under 18’s sit and wait clinic at Exeter, Torquay, and Barnstaple for more information click here

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - from a local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info