AIDS Vaccine Trial Underway in Kenya with First Public Volunteer
Kenya's AIDS vaccine trial started yesterday, as 31-year old Dr. Pamela Mandela, an ear, nose and throat specialist, became the first person to take the injection publicly, Reuters/Toronto Star reports (Blomfield, Reuters/Toronto Star, 3/7). Developed by research teams at the Medical Research Council Human Immunology Unit at Oxford University in England and the University of Nairobi, the DNA vaccine being tested is the first part of a vaccination series that also uses a modified vaccinia Ankara-strain vaccine. In preclinical studies, the combination of the two vaccines optimized the immune response against HIV. The DNA vaccine was designed specifically for Africa based on HIV subtype A, the most common strain in Kenya and other countries in Africa. The rationale for the combination vaccine is based on studies of sex workers in Nairobi who have a natural resistance to HIV infection (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/25/00). Mandela is the first to "publicly" acknowledge participation in the study, as three other Kenyans have received the DNA vaccine, but "away from the glare of publicity." The Associated Press reports that the trials were scheduled to begin in December, but were delayed because of "wrangles over ownership of the [vaccine's] patent." Mandela said, "I fear AIDS, but I also hate AIDS. With the step of being one of the first volunteers, I am fighting back." She added, "My colleagues ... understand the frustration of looking at a patient suffer, deteriorate and eventually die (from AIDS), knowing there is very little you can do." If the two vaccines prove safe separately, they will be combined and tested (England, Associated Press, 3/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.