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 the Service during the COVID crisis

How to access the service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with early symptoms of coronavirus is available online at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Advice from our service:

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

Information is now also available to advise on sexual contact during a time of social distancing here.

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Alternative provision:

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

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info