11 June 2021 Vol 372, Issue 6547
‘Landmark’ African vaccine trial faces impasse
By Jon Cohen
Science11 Jun 2021 : 1135-1136 Full Access
The questions are urgent, and the funding is in place. But a highly anticipated, $130 million clinical trial, meant to test the efficacy of the novel messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for COVID-19 against a key variant of the pandemic coronavirus as well as in people living with HIV and pregnant women, is stalled. It is ready to launch in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa, yet neither maker of the vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, wants to participate—or even provide their vaccines.
A group of prominent HIV advocates and activists in South Africa has written a letter complaining about the delay to U.S. government officials, including Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which agreed to pay for the study. They stress that COVID-19 strikes people living with HIV especially hard, and that dangerous variants of SARS-CoV-2 evolve in them because many have weakened immune systems. “We believe this will be a landmark study for this region and … the world,” they wrote. “We respectfully ask that you do all in your power to enable this study to take place.”..