PHARMACY

The Gates Foundation, NIH and J&J work together on HIV vaccine

BY Michael Johnsen

On the eve of World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), Johnson & Johnson announced that its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies together with a consortium of global partners have initiated the first efficacy study for an investigational mosaic HIV-1 preventive vaccine.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and National Institutes of Health are joining forces with Johnson & Johnson to advance the potential prevention option, which is designed to be a “global vaccine” that could prevent a wide range of viral strains responsible for the HIV pandemic.

“Developing a vaccine against HIV is a top priority and our best hope for a world without AIDS. Finding an effective HIV vaccine to protect people at risk has been a major scientific challenge, but today there is new optimism that we can get there,” stated Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer, Johnson & Johnson. “That’s why we’re joining forces with the world’s leading HIV researchers and global health advocates to help advance our experimental vaccine. Working together, our ultimate goal is to support efforts to make HIV history.”

The new, large-scale study, known as “Imbokodo,” will evaluate whether the investigational Janssen vaccine regimen is safe and able to reduce the incidence of HIV infection among 2,600 women in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The Imbokodo study is a result of an undeterred public-private partnership committed to responding to our formidable foe HIV,” said Glenda Gray, CEO and president of the South African Medical Research Council and chair of the Imbokodo study. “Africa’s leadership role in bringing an end to the epidemic is documented in its ground breaking scientific research and evident in the dedicated contribution of its people.”

The initiation of Imbokodo means that, for the first time in over a decade, two vaccine efficacy studies are taking place at the same time. Another study, HVTN 702, is currently underway in South Africa to evaluate a different vaccine candidate.

HIV/AIDS continues to be one of the world’s most pressing global health challenges. In 2016, an estimated 37 million people were living with HIV-1 globally, and 1.8 million people became newly infected with the virus. An estimated 790,000 new HIV infections occurred in eastern and southern Africa in 2016, where the new efficacy study is being conducted. In the United States, an estimated 1.1 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2014, and nearly 40,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2015.

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Army’s Zika vaccine phase 1 trials prove successful

BY Michael Johnsen

Three phase 1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus, or ZPIV vaccine have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults, and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published Tuesday in The Lancet.

Each of the three studies included in the paper was designed to address a unique question about background immunity, vaccine dose or vaccination schedule. A fourth trial with ZPIV is still underway in Puerto Rico, where the population has natural exposure to other viruses in the same family as Zika, or flaviviruses, such as dengue.

"It is imperative to develop a vaccine that prevents severe birth defects and other neurologic complications in babies caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy," said Kayvon Modjarrad, director for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the Zika program co-lead and the article's lead author. "These results give us hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be achievable."

Across the three trials, more than 90% of volunteers who received the vaccine developed an immune response against Zika.

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Health expert Jennifer Caudle joins Rite Aid in promoting flu shot availability

BY Michael Johnsen

In an effort to encourage people to get a flu shot this season, Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid is teaming with Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a nationally renowned health expert and practicing family physician, during National Influenza Vaccination Week.

“Vaccination is the single best way to protect yourself against the flu,” Caudle said. “Rite Aid pharmacists undergo special training and are professionally certified to administer immunizations, and with thousands of locations across the country, Rite Aid pharmacies are a convenient and professional setting for flu shots. That’s why I’m partnering with Rite Aid and reminding people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Caudle and Rite Aid certified immunizing pharmacist Chris Altman will host a special flu-focused Facebook Live event on Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. ET to answer questions about the flu, address common misconceptions and provide helpful tips on how to stay healthy throughout flu season.

“Our pharmacists are on the frontlines of healthcare in the communities they serve, and when it comes to fighting the flu, as certified immunizers, they can be a patient’s first line of defense,” stated Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid executive vice president of pharmacy. “And because flu activity typically peaks between December and March according to the CDC, National Influenza Vaccination Week is the perfect time to remind people there’s still time to get vaccinated and protect themselves as well as their family this flu season.”

Seasonal flu shots are available at Rite Aid locations across the country. This year, Rite Aid is offering three types of flu vaccines: a quadrivalent flu vaccine which offers protection against four strains of the flu; the standard trivalent vaccine; and FLUAD, a trivalent vaccine with adjuvant, an ingredient that helps create a stronger immune response to vaccination, which is approved for people 65 years old and older.

 

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