KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — The Malaysian Society for HIV Medicine (MASHM) today urged the government to offer Covid-19 vaccines to people living with HIV (PLHIV).
The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) official guidance on its Covid-19 website lists PLHIV with CD4 (protein found on immune cells) counts below 200 among groups that are not suitable to receive Pfizer-BioNTech shots, a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.
MASHM, a non-profit organisation, noted that current Covid-19 vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials were mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Arcturus); virus-vector vaccines (AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Gamaleya Institute, CanSino); inactivated vaccines (Sinovac, Bharat); or protein subunit vaccines (Novavax, Sanofi-Pasteur).
“None of these are live virus vaccines, hence they are safe in people with immune- compromising diseases, including PLHIV irrespective of their CD4 count and HIV viral load,” MASHM said in a statement.
The HIV medical group said Covid-19 vaccines are expected to protect PLHIV, even though there are some concerns about reduced efficacy.
“There is no data to support that PLHIV will experience more adverse reactions compared to the general population,” said MASHM.
“Anyone with a history of anaphylactic shock should not receive the mRNA vaccine, regardless of their HIV status,” it added, referring to severe allergic reactions that could be fatal if not treated immediately.
MASHM said PLHIV, like the elderly and other people with underlying health conditions, should be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination.
They also noted that coronavirus vaccines offered the same benefit for PLHIV against severe Covid-19 disease and could potentially reduce transmissions.
“PLHIV need to continue taking antiretroviral therapy before and after the Covid-19 vaccine.”
Yesterday, the Malaysian AIDS Council similarly disputed MOH’s recommendations on not vaccinating PLHIV with CD4 counts below 200, saying that Covid-19 vaccines should be offered to all individuals with HIV, irrespective of their CD4 count.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has recommended that PLHIV take the Covid-19 vaccine, saying it is safe for them as none of the vaccines approved by regulators or under development are live vaccines.