Greg Abbott visits UH, presents award for fentanyl vaccine
Gov. Greg Abbott visited UH on Thursday to recognize the University’s progress in manufacturing a vaccine for the opioid fentanyl.
Abbott toured the labs where work on the vaccine was first completed and held a news conference during which he awarded President Renu Khator with an official declaration from the governor’s office acknowledging the achievement.
“Fentanyl is killing Texas,” Abbott said. “I want to thank the University of Houston’s leadership and researchers for doing their part to come up with an innovative vaccine that will truly save lives.”
Abbott said he plans to introduce new legislation in the coming legislative session to address the fentanyl epidemic. The governor’s plans include redesignating fentanyl-related overdoses as poisonings, allowing law enforcement to pursue such cases as murders.
Abbott also said he plans to reverse his stance on the legalization of fentanyl test strips, an issue that drew national attention in May of this year. The strips would allow individuals and researchers to test for the drug’s presence, something Abbott said he now sees the need for.
“In the last session and before, there was pushback, including myself,” Abbott said. “I was not affected by that last session, but in the past two years, fentanyl has expanded so dramatically. I think there’s a better understanding now that lives are at risk here.”
The governor said that expanding access to the life-saving drug Narcan is another priority the Texas Legislature will be exploring in the coming session.
“American political leaders at every level need to understand that every life in our country is at risk,” he said.
While the vaccine will not be available any time soon, researchers are currently producing clinical-grade samples and are expected to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
“I really want to point out, governor, how absolutely supportive you have been of not just the University of Houston but higher education in general,” Khator said. “I just cannot think of any other governor who has done as much for higher education as you have.”