HIV, Immunosuppressed Patients Should Get Covid-19 Vaccine: Fauci

By Ashswita Ravindran |

Dr Anthony Fauci says Covid-19 vaccines are inactivated vaccines, hence are not contraindicated in people with poor immune systems; only live attenuated vaccines should not be taken by immunocompromised people.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci urged people with HIV or other immunosuppressive conditions to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“You know there are people who ask me if I have an immunosuppressive disease, should I wind up getting vaccinated? Even if you did have a suppressed immune system, you should get vaccinated,” Dr Fauci said. 

During the International AIDS Society’s (IAS) Covid-19 Conference: Prevention, Dr Fauci explained that the Covid-19 vaccines produced are inactivated vaccines, hence are not contraindicated in those with poor immune systems. Only live attenuated vaccines are contraindicated in those with poor immunity. A contraindication is a condition under which vaccines should not be administered. 

Dr Fauci also said that people with HIV on highly effective antiretroviral therapy have an undetectable viral load and have CD4 (protein found on immune cells) counts that have gone back to relatively normal range. Thus, these people respond well to standard vaccines such as influenza and tetanus. 

“So, I would expect that a person living with HIV who has good control with the virus, relatively good CD4 count should respond well at least to the vaccine candidates that we’ve seen so, we encourage people with HIV to please get vaccinated,” Dr Fauci added. 

“Now, you may not get a robust response as someone who doesn’t have an immunosuppressed disease but less than robust is better than nothing at all. So, let’s go for it and get vaccinated.”

mRNA Vaccine Against South African Strain Will Be Produced 

“We are taking the SARS-CoV-2 mutants from South Africa serious enough that we are actually going to make a version of that in mRNA and do a phase one or two clinical trial,” Dr Fauci added. 

Studies have found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is slightly less effective against the coronavirus variants from South Africa, whereas it is effective against all the other mutations of Covid-19 found.  

CNBC reported that mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines can easily be tweaked to adapt to new coronavirus variants, faster than conventional vaccines. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology.

Dr Fauci explained that with many cases being reported each day, there may be a lot of mutations of the Covid-19 virus appearing. 

“We are going to have continuing replication of the virus in the community which, as we all know, if you give viruses an open playing field to replicate in an uninhibited way, they will mutate…particularly if you put immense pressure on them.”

Non-Pharmacological Interventions Still Needed As Vaccines Are Rolled Out 

Dr Fauci stressed that even as vaccines are rolled out, non-pharmacological interventions, or non-medical measures, are still very critical in public health endeavours.

He also said that many people who wear face masks and comply with non-pharmacological interventions — such as physical distancing and washing hands frequently — still end up contracting Covid-19. 

“We’re seeing situations where people appear to be abiding very, very closely to non-pharmacological interventions and they are still getting infected and that’s really scary because these are people who are really very conscious.” 

“So, we are putting a full cord press on getting people uniformly to wear masks all the time,” Dr Fauci said. 

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