America, Uganda partner in new HIV vaccine study

What you need to know:

  • According to figures from the Uganda Aids Commission, there are over 50,000 new HIV infections in Uganda every year and around 17,000 Aids-related deaths, indicating a high burden of preventable disease.
  • According to information from America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the clinical development stage is a three-phase process, which may include a fourth phase if the vaccine is approved by the drug regulator. 

Ugandan scientists have partnered with America’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) to test a new HIV vaccine, the leaders revealed on Tuesday. 
Dr Vamsi Vasireddy, the country director of WRAIR Uganda, revealed to journalists in Kampala yesterday that the “RapidVax” study has already started.

“It is a new vaccine candidate that is developed by the US Department of Defence using the mRNA vaccine technology that came out during Covid vaccine development,” he said.

“So, we are still in Phase 1, which means we are still studying the safety of this vaccine candidate and we are hopeful it will go into Phase 2. As you know, the HIV vaccine space has been going on for a long time; the development and a lot of time, there has not been an effective vaccine candidate because the virus is very tricky and we are trying everything we can to find it [a vaccine],” he added. 

According to official information from the US Embassy, the RapidVax study started in March 2024 and it is being undertaken along with the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP). MUWRP confirmed the commencement of the study.

The study coordinators have not yet provided details about the number of participants in the study, how they were selected and how long the study was likely to last. This information is coming about a week after scientists at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) said they started designing an HIV vaccine.
Both interventions come about four months after the discontinuation of the clinical trials for an HIV prevention vaccine which scientists at the UVRI and Medical Research Council (MRC) were spearheading. 

The trials were discontinued because an independent monitoring committee found that the vaccine regimens had “little or no chance” of preventing HIV acquisition. 
The vaccine was not developed in Uganda but was tested in Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa, which are some of the countries with high disease burden.