An article published in the American journal The Washington Post makes a review of the differences, similitudes and synergies of researches for HIV and COVID 19 vaccines (read HERE). The authors say “In 1984, scientists discovered the virus at the root of an alarming epidemic that was sickening otherwise healthy young men with aggressive cancers and rare, life-threatening cases of pneumonia. The discovery of HIV was a long-awaited moment, and Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler vowed that the scourge of AIDS would soon end. A vaccine would be ready for testing within two years, she proclaimed.”
“Thirty-six years later, there still is no HIV vaccine. But instead of being a cautionary tale of scientific hubris, that unsuccessful effort is leading to even greater confidence in the search for a coronavirus vaccine, from some of the same researchers who have spent their careers seeking a cure for AIDS.
The article continues, “Those decades of research on HIV have taught scientists an enormous amount about the immune system, honed vaccine technologies now being repurposed against the coronavirus and created a worldwide infrastructure of clinical trial networks that can be pivoted from HIV to the pathogen that causes the disease COVID-19. Laboratories, testing sites and recruitment networks that were rushed into action against the coronavirus exist because of the enormous amount of money spent on HIV. Equipment and expertise are in place. Infection control has been upgraded. Regulators are engaged.”
COVID 19 and HIV vaccines different previsions
The authors go ahead with this challenging question:
TWO VIRUSES, KEY DIFFERENCES
HIV integrates itself into the body’s cells and people’s immune systems are not able to naturally defeat HIV, making a vaccine more difficult to create and mutate much more quickly than Sars-CoV2.
Stable COVID 19 genome, until now, makes a great difference
In this respect, a recent study published in the PNAS journal concluded “While the rapid spread of the mutation warrants further study, our results indicate that drift and bottleneck events can explain the minimal diversity found among SARS-CoV-2 sequences. These findings suggest that a single vaccine candidate should be efficacious against currently circulating lineages (PNAS journal, .
The Washington Post article continues with other great differences between these viruses. “HIV is a devilishly complicated virus, deft at outwitting vaccine efforts, but there are real reasons to hope that the coronavirus will be a less resilient foe. Only by piggybacking on the HIV vaccine effort, though, can coronavirus research move so fast.” Finally, the article affirms that not all of them are advantages for the prompt COVID 19 vaccine, “the challenge and scale are different: Not everyone is at risk of HIV, while the world population is vulnerable to the coronavirus”. Another problem to be resolved […] Leaders of the effort say years of experience engaging and building trust with minority, vulnerable and marginalized communities for HIV trials will help. But the coronavirus adds new complexities because of the speed and the scale of the trials. Older people in minority communities, for example, haven’t traditionally been the focus of HIV prevention trials, but they are a critical population to protect from the coronavirus.”
A recent interview with Anthony Fauci, MD published The American Journal of Managed Care (June 18, 2020) untitled “Challenges and Similarities in HIV, COVID-19 Crises” confirms what has been said. Fauci, says, “Whereas, with HIV, we’ve been working on a vaccine for 30-plus years. It is very difficult to get a vaccine because it’s very difficult to induce the body to do something that even natural infection doesn’t successfully allow it to do, [which] is to develop an adequate immune response to clear the virus. So the challenges are very, very different. I’m more confident that we’ll get a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 than I am that we’ll get one against HIV, although I have cautious optimism that we’ll get it for both. But I think it’s going to be much easier to get it against the coronavirus.”
A call to realism
However, it should not be overlooked that the claim to obtain a vaccine against SARS COV 2 at the end of this year or the beginning of next year is still a declaration of intent, the fulfillment of which is really difficult. Advances in vaccine research and accumulated experience do not prevent the necessary control measures from being taken to ensure the safety of candidate vaccines, beyond their efficacy in protecting against COVID 19. The recent suspension of the clinical trial by AstraZéneca with its vaccine due to the appearance of a serious side effect in a patient – transverse myelitis, it is demonstrative that the validation process of a new vaccine is long and complex if its safety is to be guaranteed and that, in addition, this it is good news in the sense that the necessary vigilance measures are being taken to avoid that hasty approval could have serious negative consequences on the target population (read HERE).