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COVID-19 Vaccine Information

NAPWHA is an active contributor in the ASHM* COVID-19 Taskforce.

Video: Hear from Dr John Rule (NAPWHA Senior Research Manager) speaking with Professor Sharon Lewin (Inaugual Director of The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne) on 29 March 2021 about the Astra-Zeneca vaccine available in Phase 1B where all people living with HIV are now eligible. This final video answers some questions about concerns about protection from COVID-19 variant strains.

Video: Hear from Adam Ehm (former President, Living Positive Victoria) speaking with Dr James McMahon (Infectious Diseases Physician, The Alfred, Melbourne Victoria) on 26 March 2021 about the Australian rollout of COVID-19 vaccine rollout (Phase 1A and 1B) where all people living with HIV are now eligible.

Video: Hear from Chris Howard (Executive Programs Manager, Queensland Positive People) speaking with Dr Darren Russell (Director of Sexual Health, Cairns Sexual Health, Queensland) on 17 March 2021 on a significant day of the Australian rollout of COVID-19 vaccine rollout (Phase 1A and 1B)

To help you learn more about COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in 2021 as new information is being released, NAPWHA will regularly update this webpage with latest information from the ASHM* COVID-19 Taskforce HIV cluster group

NAPWHA and ASHM has been negotiating on behalf of people living with HIV. We have auspiced meetings with  representatives from the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) regarding the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The information below respond directly to some important questions people living with HIV (PLHIV) have been asking.  As with any concerns, talk with your doctor about them, and ensure you have the most up-to-date information and advice.

* ASHM is the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine

Image below: Read the Australian Government’s Consent form for COVID-19 vaccination [PDF download]

This page was last updated on 29 March 2021.

1.  The Australian COVID-19 vaccine strategy will roll out vaccines in three phases. During which phases will people living with HIV be offered COVID-19 vaccines?

The Australian COVID-19 vaccine strategy will roll out vaccines in three phases.

  • HIV positive people can receive a vaccine if they meet the eligibility criteria for Phase 1a
  • All other HIV positive people will be eligible to receive a vaccine during Phase 1b

For further information: see the webpage Statement from the ASHM COVID-19 Taskforce regarding the Prioritisation of COVID-19 Vaccines for People Living with HIV.  This is Statement is also available in PDF version.


Infographic on COVID vaccine rollout

Image:  Table from Key COVID vaccine rollout questions answered republished from The Conversation on 22 February 2021


2.  Is HIV considered an underlying health condition for the purpose of the COVID-19 strategy roll out? — Yes

The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for people with ‘acquired immunodeficiency’ as per the ATAGI clinical guidance on COVID-19 Vaccine in Australia in 2021 [PDF 515 KB, 27 pages].  For the purposes of the COVID-19 vaccination, this applies to HIV.

Additionally, many people living with HIV will have other co-morbidities which are also listed as underlying medical conditions in the guidance documents (see on summary box on page 7: Medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness), for example:  diabetes, heart disease, or chronic renal disease.


3.  Are the Pfizer-BioNTech and Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccines safe for people living with HIV?

Australia has entered into 4 separate agreements for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, including vaccines from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer-BioNTech and Astra-Zeneca.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people living with HIV. The statement prepared as a guideline for clinicians about the COVID-19 Vaccines and people living with HIV indicates they will be safe.

  • There have been a small number of people living with HIV enrolled in vaccine studies. You can read about these studies in an online article ‘Have COVID-19 vaccines been tested in people with HIV?’ written by Roger Pebody published by the NAM aidsMAP in February 2021.
  • It is anticipated that these vaccines will be safe in people living with HIV, including those who are not on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, because they do not contain live SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • There is no evidence or theoretical concerns that either of these vaccines will make ARV treatment  less effective or that ARV treatment will make either of these HIV vaccines less effective.

 


4.  Will confidentiality around my HIV status be maintained if I am in Phase 1a? — Yes

  • People living with HIV will qualify to receive COVID-19 vaccines during Phase 1a if they are quarantine or border workers, frontline healthcare workers, aged care and disability care staff, or aged care and disability care residents.
  • Under Phase 1a these criteria alone should be sufficient for HIV positive people to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • People in this group should not have to disclose their HIV status if they choose not to.

 


5.  How would confidentiality of my HIV status be maintained if I am vaccinated in Phase 1b?

Details about the administration of Phase 1b of the vaccine roll out are still being put into place and both NAPWHA and ASHM are in discussion with the Commonwealth Government about how confidentiality can be assured.

  • Details about the roll out of Phase 1b are still being arranged in each Australian State and Territory and may vary across the country. Not all clinicians in Australia will be accredited to vaccinate their patients during Phase 1b, so some clinicians will have to refer their patients to an accredited vaccination clinic.
  • To protect the medical confidentiality of HIV-positive patients, NAPWHA is advocating for a system whereby your doctor will be able to give you a referral letter for a COVID-19 vaccination which confirms your eligibility without having to disclose your HIV status — i.e. as a person with an underlying medical condition. The letter need not state that you are HIV-seropositive if you do not want your HIV status to be disclosed.
  • Representatives from the Commonwealth Department of Health have provided assurances that documentation which details when you must return for the second dose or have been vaccinated will not say the reason why you were vaccinated in Phase 1b if you do not want it to.

Video below:  One of our member organisations, Positive Life NSW facilitated a discussion between people living with HIV and experts on these issues. At the 45min mark, Associate Professor Edwina Wright (Chair of the ASHM COVID-19 Taskforce) discusses the COVID Vaccine rollout, schedule and logistics.

6.  As a person living with HIV should I get the COVID-19 vaccination? — Yes

  • All expert guidance to-date supports people living with HIV should have access to the vaccine to protect them against COVID-19 and to preserve their health.
  • Getting COVID-19, especially if you have other underlying health conditions, or if you are older, can be a more significant risk in terms of health outcomes for PLHIV.
  • COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for people who are immunocompromised because of this increased risk of severe illness.

For further information about why this is recommended see the document:
Statement from the ASHM COVID-19 Taskforce regarding the Prioritisation of COVID-19 Vaccines for People Living with HIV

As with any concerns, talk with your doctor about them, and ensure you have the most up-to-date information and advice.


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