On Monday, Pfizer and French drug maker Valneva announced they are in phase three of developing a vaccine against Lyme disease. The vaccine candidate has been named VLA15 and is the only Lyme disease vaccine in development. It is still being tested for quality, safety, and efficacy.

“With increasing global rates of Lyme disease, providing a new option for people to help protect themselves from the disease is more important than ever,” said Annaliesa Anderson, Pfizer’s Head of Vaccine Research and Development.

Patti Casey, the Environmental Surveillance Program Director with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture says that statewide surveillance every spring and fall indicates that the tick population is rising. Casey noted that they have seen a steady increase in tick numbers by about 5 to 10 percent per year and that climate change can have an effect on this larger number of ticks.

“We’re finding between 50 and 60 percent of the ticks that we do test for diseases, are carrying Lyme disease,” said Casey. “The transmission rate of disease is much lower because they need to be on a certain period – according to the experts, it’s 24 to 36 hours Lyme disease and the other three or four more prevalent diseases are passed on.”

Even though Pfizer is seeing positive evidence for this potential vaccine, it might not be distributed for years, if approved. Casey notes that not all ticks carry Lyme disease, or are capable of transmitting it.

To protect yourself from ticks, wear long sleeves and protective clothes, and check yourself and your pets after being outside.