Major Study Halted as HIV Vaccine Fails Test in South Africa

Nation/World
A picture taken on November 30, 2016 shows an experimental vaccine against the AIDS virus in Shoshaguve, near Pretoria, as South Africa launched a major clinical trial of the experimental vaccine, which scientists hope could be the "final nail in the coffin" for the disease. More than 30 years of efforts to develop an effective vaccine for HIV have not borne fruit, but for the first time since the virus was identified in 1983, scientists think they have found a promising candidate. The new study, known as HVTN 702, will involve more than 5,400 sexually active men and women aged 18-35 in 15 areas around South Africa over four years. / AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN (Photo credit should read MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP via Getty Images)

A picture taken on November 30, 2016 shows an experimental vaccine against the AIDS virus in Shoshaguve, near Pretoria, as South Africa launched a major clinical trial of the experimental vaccine, which scientists hope could be the “final nail in the coffin” for the disease. More than 30 years of efforts to develop an effective vaccine for HIV have not borne fruit, but for the first time since the virus was identified in 1983, scientists think they have found a promising candidate. The new study, known as HVTN 702, will involve more than 5,400 sexually active men and women aged 18-35 in 15 areas around South Africa over four years. / AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN (Photo credit should read MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest attempt at an HIV vaccine has failed, as researchers announced Monday they have stopped giving the experimental shots in a major study.

The study had enrolled more than 5,400 people since 2016 in South Africa, a country with one of the world’s highest HIV rates. Last month, monitors checked how the study was going and found 129 HIV infections had occurred among the vaccine recipients compared with 123 among those given a dummy shot, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

“An HIV vaccine is essential to end the global pandemic and we hoped this vaccine candidate would work. Regrettably, it does not,” said NIH infectious diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci.

There were no safety concerns, but NIH, which sponsored the study, agreed that vaccinations should stop.

The experimental shot was based on the only vaccine ever shown to offer even modest protection against HIV, one that was deemed 31% effective in Thailand. That wasn’t good enough for real-world use but gave scientists a starting point. They beefed up the shot and adapted it to the HIV subtype that’s common in southern Africa.

Two other large studies, in several countries, are under way testing a different approach to a possible HIV vaccine.

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