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Chinese medical expert cautions against premature approval of Johnson HIV vaccine

By Sun Wenyu (People's Daily Online)    17:39, August 11, 2017

It is too early to evaluate the real protection effect and use of the Johnson & Johnson HIV vaccine though the company has made substantial progress, said chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC).

Wu made the remarks after recent media reports on Johnson & Johnson’s announcement that its HIV vaccine clinical trial results showed that 100 per cent of the volunteers produced HIV antibodies after injection.

It was also reported that the subjects’ risk of HIV infection under single exposure to the AIDS virus was reduced by 94 per cent.

The information led to online euphoria in China with some people already saying HIV is of the past; and that this year’s Nobel Prize is reserved for those who developed the vaccine.

Experts however pointed out that the news was indeed a misinterpretation of the clinical trial results.

According to Johnson’s oral report at the 9th International AIDS Conference on HIV Science in Paris, 100 per cent of the 393 healthy volunteers of the mosaic vaccine, who used a variety of antigen HIV (gene fragments) together, produced HIV antibodies. In addition, the vaccine was well tolerated and no side effects were spotted.

Wu noted that the production of virus antibody may suggest a three-fold meaning from the medical science perspective: infection of a certain pathogenic microorganism, recovery or impossibility of future infection.

He however stressed that the real AIDS situation is complicated and the antibody produced in the project does not indicate the three-fold meaning as concerns AIDS prevention.

Many medical experts say the data released by Johnson & Johnson was actually results from animal tests rather than human clinical trials. AIDS clinical expert, Li Taisheng, cautioned the public not to consider animal and human tests as the same concept.

According to Wu, phase 3 clinical trial will be the real evaluation of the vaccine’s effect, so it is too early to reach any conclusion now.

Wu said it was difficult to predict when an effective HIV vaccine will be ready. But he believes it will take at least 5 years because that is the time needed to carry out phase 3 clinical tests.

It was learnt that a larger clinical trial is being considered by Johnson & Johnson. It is expected to start at the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018 if everything goes according to plan. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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