(Thumbnail image from Bangkok Post)
Researchers in Thailand recently announced that they have created a vaccine to help fight the spread of HIV, a development some health officials are calling a scientific “breakthrough”.“This is a major finding. First of all it’s the first time we’ve found an HIV vaccine can reduce an HIV infection, and the other thing that’s very critical here is that we know that an effective and safe vaccine is possible.”
But just how significant is this news? We found varying perspectives on that question, from Bangkok Post, CNN, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, and Fox News Mobile.
We’ll go to Thailand first, where a study on the vaccine has been done over the past seven years.
Bangkok Post offers some background, stating that the vaccine produced by the study reduces the risk of being infected by a third. The US Army and Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health carried out the study. It was the world’s largest vaccine trial, involving more than 16,000 volunteersCNN
chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta highlights the fact that the study was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and explains why. “If you look at infectious diseases, including ones like HIV, in many ways now they are considered potential national security threats. You can change the economies of countries; you can change the health systems of countries simply by an infection like this. You also have the concern about people, troops overseas and domestically being at risk for the infection.”
Despite the experiment’s success, the results show the vaccine only has a protection rate of 31%. Dr. Peter Klatsky for the Huffington Post
says that this percent is too low.“…these results were underwhelming. Although they were "statistically significant," it is way too early to declare success. A simple look at the numbers is more sobering…if one additional patient who received the vaccine became infected (52 instead of 51) the results would no longer be “statistically significant.”
But Dr. Manny Alvarez, Managing Editor of FoxNewsHealth.com, says that this is a meaningful development. "I think this is huge, I think this is one of the biggest breaks in the HIV vaccine history, You know for years they’ve been trying to come up with a vaccine. Look, it doesn’t meet the standards of full vaccination because you want to see an efficacy of about 70 to 80% in any type of vaccine, this is 30%. But for the first time, scientists have been able to some up with a technology, with a vaccine prototype that is effective."
talks to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of an organization that co-sponsored the study. He suggests that more needs to be done. “Rather than being the end game, where now we say we have an HIV vaccine, which we don’t, it’s a very important step to help guide us now towards optimizing that. If you have a vaccine you really like to see a vaccine that’s sixty, seventy, eighty percent effective or even more. This first step I would consider more an important step in progress as opposed to the end of the line with a product that we feel we can now go ahead and use.”
Though the vaccine still has a long way to go, it is helping to create optimism in a field that has become used to disappointment. But is this optimism justified? We’d like to hear your opinion.