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Medical News & Perspectives
March 26, 2003

Critics Bash HIV Vaccine Trial Analysis

JAMA. 2003;289(12):1491. doi:10.1001/jama.289.12.1491

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.

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