TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Researchers call a fentanyl vaccine in the works a “game changer,” amid continued warnings of overdoses in the Bay area.

“I don’t know what we have to do to get people’s attention. First, the user at the bottom end, you keep using fentanyl, you gonna die,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd at a recent news conference announcing his office’s largest fentanyl seizure ever.

According to the data provided to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office from the Medical Examiner’s Office, 115 people died from using fentanyl or drugs laced with fentanyl in 2021.

“We had the highest overdose rate on record in American history last year. I have no reason to doubt that that number will not go up again,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Fentanyl is said to be 50 times stronger than heroin, and 100 times stronger than morphine.

Often it is laced with drugs, unbeknownst to the user.

“The OD’s that are happening aren’t coming as much from addicts as first-time users taking an unknown substance. They believe they’re trying ecstasy for the first time, they believe they’re trying a Xanax bar for the first time,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

“It gives them a stronger high and a more powerful high and they’re looking for that ultimate high. Well, they’re getting it,” Judd said.

What if there was a way to lessen that high?

Researchers at the University of Houston think a vaccine could help.

“If someone takes fentanyl and has been vaccinated, the antibodies produced by the vaccine bind to fentanyl and prevent it from getting into the brain altogether,” said Dr. Colin Haile, research associate professor at the University of Houston.

Researchers tell News Nation that vaccines could be more effective than treatments like methadone that require a daily visit.

“So every day you need to make that decision that you want to quit using drugs whereas, with a vaccine, you only have to make that decision once in a while,” said Therese Kosten, professor of psychology at the University of Houston.

While a vaccine could help fight addiction, Narcan would still be needed to prevent accidental overdoses for people experimenting with drugs, which are often laced with fentanyl, according to News Nation.