Desperate quest for herpes cure launched ‘rogue’ medical trial
By Marisa Taylor, California Healthline
As 20 Americans and Brits flew to a Caribbean island for a controversial herpes vaccine trial, many of them knew there were risks.
The lead U.S. researcher, William Halford, openly acknowledged he was flouting Food and Drug Administration regulations in the consent forms they signed. He would be injecting them with a live, though weakened, herpes virus without U.S. safety oversight.
Still, many of them felt upbeat when they arrived on St. Kitts and Nevis in the spring of 2016. They had struggled for years with debilitating, painful herpes. Halford, the creator of the vaccine, sounded confident.
Maybe they could be cured.
“It felt like paradise,” one of the participants recalled. “Or therapy combined with vacation.”
A year later, their optimism has turned to uncertainty. Memories of kicking back in a Caribbean hotel during the trial have been overshadowed by the dread of side effects and renewed outbreaks.
But they can’t turn to Halford, a Southern Illinois University professor. He died of cancer in June.
They also can’t rely on his university, which shares in the vaccine’s patent but says it was unaware of the trial until after it was over. Because the FDA didn’t monitor the research, it can’t provide guidance. Indeed, there is little independent information about what was in the vaccine or even where it was manufactured, since Halford created it himself.