Second vaccine trial given go-ahead

South Africa's Medicines Control Council (MCC) has given the go-ahead for the country's second vaccine trial, expected to kick off later this year.

The vaccine, named HIVA.MVA, was designed by the University of Nairobi in Kenya and Oxford University in the United Kingdom. The first phase of human trials of the vaccine have already been completed in Kenya and are underway in Uganda.

The South African trials will be a "small study", with between 20 and 50 volunteers, to examine the safety of different methods of injecting the same vaccine, South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) spokeswoman, Michelle Galloway, told PlusNews.

This is the second AIDS vaccine candidate the MCC has cleared for human trials in South Africa. In June 2003, the MCC gave approval for a Phase 1 trial of AVX101, designed by biotechnology firm AlphaVax.

The AVX101 trials will be conducted concurrently in the United States (US) and South Africa by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, the vaccine research arm of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), using a "staggered start". These trials have yet to begin in South Africa.

"With two different preventive AIDS vaccine candidates approved to be tested, South Africa — which has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world — is now a key centre in the global effort to discover a vaccine," an International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) statement said.

The trials of both vaccines will be conducted at the same sites: one in Soweto and the other in the port city of Durban.

Researchers have estimated that it will take at least 10 years before an HIV/AIDS vaccine is on the market.

"We must all work quickly to discover an AIDS vaccine, never compromising safety, but also never tolerating unnecessary delay. Each month sooner that a vaccine is widely available will save millions of lives," Dr Seth Berkley, executive director of IAVI, said in the statement.