This information for HIV positive patients about COVID-19 vaccination has been adapted from HIV i-Base and the British HIV Association (BHIVA). Dr Steve Taylor from Heartlands HIV Service is a Medical Advisor for HIV i-base. He has reviewed this data. In his opinion answers to the questions are correct at the time of publication 8-1-2021. The Information is take from, and updated regularly at, iBase.
Are vaccines against COVID-19 effective?
Yes, any approved vaccine has been very carefully studied in a wide range of people.
Which vaccines are being used in the UK?
The Pfizer vaccine and the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine and shortly the Moderna/NIH vaccine
Why should I get a vaccine?
The main reason to get the vaccine is to protect you from catching COVID-19 which can be a life threatening infection
Is my risk high enough to need the vaccine?
There is only a limited supply of these vaccines. In the UK, for at least the next few months, you will only be offered the vaccine if your personal risk is high.
Do I have to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
If the vaccine is for your own health, then this is always still your choice. You do not have to have the vaccine. Although our clinic Heartlands HIV service and Queen Elizabeth HIV service is recommending it to all of our patients. If you are still unsure about having the vaccine please talk to your doctor or pharmacist
Are vaccines against COVID-19 safe?
Yes, based on the results from large studies, any approved vaccine will be very safe.
What is the best/ideal interval between vaccine doses?
In the UK both vaccines are now being given with 12 weeks between doses. There is no choice for which vaccine you get or the timing of doses.
Will the COVID-19 vaccines work against the new variant viruses?
Most researchers think the vaccines will still be effective against new variants.
What is in the COVID-19 vaccines?
Maybe it is better to start by saying that none of the COVID vaccines in the UK contain any live viruses. There is no risk of catching coronavirus from the vaccine.
Could the vaccine interact with my HIV meds?
There are no interactions between the COVID-19 vaccines and HIV meds.
Does the vaccine interact with other medicines?
No. There are no medicines that currently cannot be used with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Will my HIV viral load blip when I have the vaccine?
There is not enough results from HIV positive people in the first vaccine studies to report this yet, though this will be reported later. Based on other vaccines, low-level blips might occur in a small percentage of people just after the vaccine. These will not affect your HIV treatment or your risk to partners
Are animal products in the vaccines? Are they Halal?
There are no animal products in the Pfizer, Moderna or Oxford vaccines. There are also no traces of pig products or egg products. These vaccines are all Halal safe
What if I have a history of allergy reactions?
Even people with a history of serious reactions can still use the vaccine. This includes people who have reactions to vaccines, medicines or foods.
Can I develop an allergic reaction to the vaccine?
Yes, although the risk is small and relates to your history of allergies.
What about if I have immune suppression from HIV or cancer treatment?
Yes, the vaccine is still recommended if you are HIV positive or if you have cancer. This is because of the high risk from COVID-19.
What if I have other inflammatory or autoimmune conditions?
The vaccine is still recommended for people living with inflammatory or autoimmune conditions. This includes people using immune suppressing drugs.
Can people with haemophilia and HIV have COVID-19 vaccines? Are there special cautions?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for people with HIV and haemophilia. However, many people will need clotting factor treatment immediately before they have the injection. This is because, although rare, people with haemophilia can develop serious bleeding after an intramuscular injection.
Can the vaccine interact with oestrogen and/or testosterone treatment?
There are no interactions between the COVID-19 vaccines and oestrogen and testosterone
Are the vaccines safe in pregnancy?
So far there is little data because pregnancy was exclusion for the main studies. But if you are pregnant, the vaccine is still recommended.
Are the vaccines safe in children?
The first vaccine studies were in people who are aged 16 and over. Studies in younger children are currently ongoing.
How is the vaccine given?
The vaccines being used in the UK are given as an injection into your upper arm. The second dose will be given after approximately 12 weeks. Protection begins from approximately 10-14 days after the first dose and is probably highest 7-14 days after the second dose
What are the side effects from the vaccine?
Most side effects to the vaccines were mild or moderate. Common side effects were similar to getting the flu vaccine. They generally got better within a few days. They can include: Mild pain at injection site (common), tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain (uncommon), fever (uncommon).
What if I already had COVID-19? Does it matter where this was severe or mild?
People who already had COVID-19 are still recommended to use the vaccine. It doesn’t matter how severe or mild this was.
Will my GP or HIV doctor give me the vaccine? Can I choose?
Who gives you the vaccine might depend on which vaccine is being used. It might be your GP or a hospital doctor. In the UK it is unlikely to be your HIV doctor
Will the vaccine stop me catching COVID-19? Or just from getting ill? Or maybe both?
The vaccine will definitely reduce risk of getting ill, but the answer is “probably both”. The vaccines are approved because they reduce symptoms of COVID-19.
The following links are to different sources for more information.
i-Base report news about COVID-19 treatment and vaccines in a monthly bulletin.
British HIV Association (for information about HIV and COVID-19).
UK patient information leaflet for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
FDA 50-page document with detailed results on Pfizer vaccine.
YouTube website to watch the US CDC hearings for COVID vaccines
A guide to vaccinology: from basic principles to new developments
Comprehensive scientific review of safety and efficacy of vaccines published in Nature in December 2020.
Article on why vaccine is recommended for people with immune suppression and autoimmune conditions.
Guidance from the US on risk of allergic reactions to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines
Website for WHO COVAX programme for global access.