COVID-19 vaccines being used in Zimbabwe are safe for people living with HIV and Aids, including those on anti-retroviral therapy, government has clarified.
Addressing a , Deputy Director for Health Promotions in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Paul Chinakidzwa said no pharmacological interactions have been reported between COVID-19 vaccines and antiretroviral drug.
“People living with HIV had one or more comorbidities that may put them at risk for more severe COVID-19 infection if they were not vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines for which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued recommendations are safe for people with HIV,” he said.
Chinakidzwa added that the vaccines often include genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, but do not contain the whole virus, meaning that the virus could not replicate.
“As they are not live vaccines, they are not expected to be less safe in people who are immuno-compromised,” he said.
Chinakidzwa said without vaccines, people would be at risk of serious illness, disability and death from preventable diseases.
“Vaccines reduce risks of getting a disease by working with your body’s natural defenses to build protection. When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds,” he added.
Public Health Speacialist, Vimbai Mandizvidza said people living with HIV who are not taking ART or whose disease is not well managed may be at increased risk for contracting COVID-19 due to having a compromised immune system and may also be at increased risk for serious symptoms and death.
“With the lockdowns, there was a risk that people living with HIV would experience treatment interruptions and reduced access to other HIV services due to the restrictions in movement and health facilities realigning their services to suit the current environment,” she said.
According to UNAIDS on COVID-19 compared to other people, people living with HIV should be a recognized priority group in national COVID-19 vaccination policies.