When some officials with VaxGen Inc announced last month that their
HIV vaccine did not reduce infection rates, the AIDS research and activist
communities were disappointed but not surprised. After all, many had suspected
that the Brisbane, Calif–based company's vaccine would not be able to
elicit the kind of immune response that would be required to protect the body
against infection with HIV.
But a firestorm of criticism erupted when the company reported that
subset analysis of their data showed statistically significant efficacy in
blacks and another minority group, suggesting a genetic basis for difference
in response. Researchers and activists were dubious of the claims, noting
the small sample size of the subgroups. Moreover, some critics complained
that further analysis and research based on the subset findings would waste
dollars better spent on other HIV vaccine trials and would give false hope
to certain minorities.
Mitka M. Critics Bash HIV Vaccine Trial Analysis. JAMA. 2003;289(12):1491. doi:10.1001/jama.289.12.1491