Media Releases

Future HIV vaccines: If we build it, will they come?

July 14, 2010

Research addresses challenges for future vaccine

TORONTO, ON – On the eve of the world’s biggest AIDS con­fer­ence this month in Aus­tria, a new research review shows many peo­ple wouldn’t get inoc­u­lat­ed against HIV even if a vac­cine was devel­oped. 

The author­i­ta­tive review – pub­lished in this month’s edi­tion of the jour­nal AIDS – was led by Peter A. New­man, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work. New­man and PhD can­di­date Car­men Logie drew con­clu­sions from 30 pre­vi­ous research papers involv­ing near­ly 12,000 peo­ple on the top­ic of HIV vac­cine accept­abil­i­ty. 

“One might assume that if an HIV vac­cine was avail­able, many peo­ple would line up to be vac­ci­nat­ed. How­ev­er, the research strong­ly indi­cates this is not the case,” says New­man, Cana­da Research Chair in Health and Social Jus­tice. “The avail­abil­i­ty of a vac­cine alone is not enough to ensure that peo­ple will be inoc­u­lat­ed.” 

New­man and Logie’s meta-analy­sis of exist­ing lit­er­a­ture iden­ti­fied sev­er­al fac­tors that could influ­ence people’s will­ing­ness to be inoc­u­lat­ed with an HIV vac­cine. Among them: 

  • The effec­tive­ness of a vac­cine: The research showed peo­ple would be far less like­ly to take an HIV vac­cine if it was only 50 per cent effec­tive in pro­tect­ing against HIV infec­tion:

-      If a vac­cine was 50 per cent effec­tive in pro­tect­ing against HIV, only 40 per cent of peo­ple said they would accept it
—      If a vac­cine was 100 per cent effec­tive, 74 per cent of peo­ple said they would accept it 

  • Risk per­cep­tion: The research showed many peo­ple do not see them­selves as being “at risk” of con­tract­ing the dis­ease – even if they are – and so would not con­sid­er being inoc­u­lat­ed against HIV. 
  • Struc­tur­al fac­tors: The research showed that fac­tors such as cost and access to vac­cines would pre­vent some peo­ple from seek­ing inoc­u­la­tion. 

Addi­tion­al but less influ­en­tial fac­tors includ­ed fear of side effects and fear of vac­cines. 

“If we want a future HIV vac­cine to be accept­able and acces­si­ble to peo­ple, we need to address these fac­tors now, before the vac­cine is pub­licly avail­able,” says New­man. “Oth­er­wise, we’ll get to the point where we’ve got a safe and rea­son­ably effec­tive vac­cine but the pub­lic is not pre­pared or able to receive it.” 

Logie says the research indi­cates a grow­ing need for pub­lic edu­ca­tion. Peo­ple need to under­stand what sci­en­tists mean when they talk about a vaccine’s effi­ca­cy, she says. 

“The research shows that some peo­ple are high­ly sus­pi­cious of vac­cines that are less than 100 per cent effec­tive, but the fact is, not every vac­cine is 100 per cent effec­tive. That’s some­thing the pub­lic needs to under­stand,” she says. 

There must be more edu­ca­tion and aware­ness around the ben­e­fits of vac­cines and the con­tin­u­ing risk of HIV, par­tic­u­lar­ly in young peo­ple, says New­man. “It’s a chal­lenge to have peo­ple weigh the very minis­cule risks of get­ting a vac­cine against the far greater risks of HIV.”  And gov­ern­ments need to con­sid­er what can be done to address “struc­tur­al bar­ri­ers” such as cost for vac­cines and mak­ing them eas­i­ly acces­si­ble. 

“The research has clear­ly iden­ti­fied fac­tors that would influ­ence people’s deci­sions around HIV vac­ci­na­tions,” says New­man. “Now, we have to ask our­selves, ‘which of those fac­tors can we begin to address, and how?’” 

For more infor­ma­tion on the study, please con­tact: 

April Kemick
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer
416–978-5949 or 416–978-0100