Infants and Children Must Be Included in AIDS Vaccine Trials

May 16, 2011

Statement from Dr. Laura Guay, Vice President of Research for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

“Over the past two decades, efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) have dramatically reduced new cases of HIV infection in children in high-income countries. However, more than 1,000 children a day are still infected with HIV, mostly in resource-poor countries where breastfeeding is key to infant survival. A vaccine that could be given to infants to protect those born to HIV-positive mothers against HIV infection during breastfeeding, as well as to potentially set the stage for lifetime immunity, could create the first generation protected from and free of HIV.

In our continuing efforts to reach more women with PMTCT interventions, we must continue to investigate additional strategies to protect infants and children from HIV infection, including the development of a preventive vaccine.

It is particularly important that pediatric vaccine trials be conducted where there are high rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, so that children in these settings can be among the first to benefit, and the vaccine’s efficacy can be quickly established.

Despite the potential benefits, children have been largely excluded from HIV vaccine research. Of the more than 190 HIV vaccine trials that have been completed, less than two percent have included children.

This sobering statistic reflects a reluctance to test vaccine candidates in infants and young children without first demonstrating the vaccine’s efficacy in adults. However, a vaccine that is not effective in preventing adult infection could potentially be successful in decreasing infection in infants.  Once vaccine safety has been established in adults, it is critical that pediatric trials be conducted in parallel with adult efficacy trials.
Continuing to test vaccine candidates in adults alone will leave behind infants and children, a vulnerable population that deserves to benefit from a successful vaccine.”


About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation:
The Foundation is a global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV and AIDS, and has reached more than 11.6 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. It works at more than 5,400 sites in 17 countries to implement prevention, care, and treatment services; to further advance innovative research; and to execute strategic and targeted global advocacy activities in order to bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide.