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Is there truly a new HIV vaccine with 97% antibody response rate?

4 mins read

Claim: The screenshot of a report making the rounds claims a new HIV vaccine has a 97% antibody response rate in phase 1 human trial.

While it is true an HIV candidate vaccine (IAVI G001) generated 97% antibodies response against HIV, there are more phases a vaccine must go through before it is recommended.

Full Text

The Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an infection that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the white blood cells called CD4 cells. HIV destroys these CD4 cells, thereby weakening a person’s immunity against infections such as tuberculosis and some cancers.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) at the end of 2019, there were 38 million people living with HIV. 

Screenshot of the WHO HIV data

The WHO recommends that every person who may be at risk of HIV should access testing and people diagnosed with HIV should be offered and linked to antiretroviral treatment as soon after diagnosis. This treatment, if taken consistently, also prevents HIV transmission to others.

HIV can be diagnosed using simple and affordable rapid diagnostic tests, as well as self-tests. It is, however, important that HIV testing services follow the 5Cs: consent, confidentiality, counselling, correct results, and connection with treatment and other services.

Recently the screenshot of a story titled “Novel HIV vaccine approach shows promise in ‘Landmark’ trial” was being circulated on social media. This image claims there is a new HIV vaccine with a 97% antibody response rate in phase 1 human trial. 

“Wow, new HIV vaccine with a 97% antibody response rate in phase I human trial. This is the most effective trial vaccine till date. It is based on Moderna’s COVID vaccine. COVID tech acceleration could change RX for Cancer and HIV in future.”

Excerpt of the message contained in the viral image.

Screenshot of Viral image

Verification

Dubawa conducted a keyword search and found the original story on europeanpharmaciticalreview. The report stated that a novel vaccine approach for the prevention of HIV has shown promise in Phase I trials. According to IAVI and Scripps Research, the vaccine had successfully stimulated the production of the rare immune cells needed to generate antibodies against HIV in 97 percent of participants.

Dubawa also found a press release by IAVI and Scripps research on February 3, 2021, announcing this feat with its clinical trial, IAVI G001, after Uhambo’s failure. 

Screenshot of IAVI’s press release

William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center (NAC), whose laboratory developed the vaccine, announced this result. 

He noted that this is just an approach that shows a vaccine can be created for HIV

“This study demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well. We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens.”

Excerpt of Schief’s comment from the press release.

The press release also revealed that IAVI and Scripps Research will be partnering with the biotechnology company Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine that harnesses the approach to produce the same beneficial immune cells which could significantly accelerate the pace of HIV vaccine development.

A Youtube video by IAVI also explains this clinical trial and the lessons learnt from it.

It is worthy of note, however, that this is just the first trial phase and there are two more phases for a vaccine to go through before it is approved or recommended.

Screenshot of CDC vaccine phases

Conclusion

The claim that an HIV vaccine shows 97% antibody response in the phase 1 trial is true but this is just setting the stage for additional clinical trials which will seek to refine the effectiveness of the vaccine.

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