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AIDS Vaccine Is of Modest Help, Fuller Research Says


5 Star

AIDS Vaccine Is of Modest Help, Fuller Research Says

Our Review Summary

This follow-up piece draws attention to secondary data analyses of the much talked about AIDS vaccination trial conducted in Thailand. According to the results released in September, the vaccine showed a statistically significant reduction in risk of HIV infection. However, two additional analyses published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine did not find statistical significance. This story underscores the need for healthy skepticism about early announcements of unpublished research.

The writer did a nice job explaining different types of analysis and statistical significance, which many physicians and lay people have difficulty grasping.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Since the vaccine is not available, a discussion of costs is not warranted.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The piece does a nice job of presenting the results of the initial report in terms of absolute and relative risk reduction; however, absolute data is not provided for the secondary analyses.  To its credit, the story clearly and effectively explained statistical significance as it relates to this research.  As stated in previous coverage, the story reiterates that the benefits of the vaccine are modest and additional research is needed.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Given that this is a follow-up report focused on newly released data, a discussion of the potential harms of the vaccine is not necessary.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


This story does an excellent job defining the different types of analyses used to evaluate the outcome data. The story also points out the results of the secondary analyses have been published in a peer-reviewed journal, suggesting the calculations have been checked for accuracy.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


This story does not engage in disease-mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

This story does not provide commentary from any independent sources. In this case, a single comment from a biostatistical consultant would have provided helpful perspective. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Applicable

Given the nature of this follow-up story, a discussion on the existing alternatives to HIV prevention may not be warranted.    

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


 This story makes it known that the vaccine is still in the testing phase and is not yet available. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story makes it clear that researchers have been working on an AIDS vaccine for decades.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The story does not appear to be based on a press release.

Total Score: 6 of 7 Satisfactory


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