THE Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) has says there is no possibility of drug interaction if a Person Living with HIV (PLHIV) takes the COVID-19 vaccine, hence persons with HIV and on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) should not hesitate to get the jab.
By Michael Gwarisa
Speaking during a virtual Media Briefing on HIV and COVID-19 vaccines that was organized by the Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH), Mr Paul Chinakidzwa the Health Promotions Manager in the Ministry of Health said the COVID-19 vaccines for which WHO has issued recommendations were safe for people living with HIV.
The vaccines often include genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, but do not contain the whole virus, so the virus cannot replicate. As they are not live vaccines, they are not expected to be less safe in people who are immuno-compromised.
“No pharmacological interactions have been reported between COVID-19 vaccines and antiretroviral drugs. People living with HIV should continue to take antiretroviral therapy after vaccination which maintains health and prevents onward HIV transmission,” said Mr Chinakidzwa.
He added that many people living with HIV have one or more comorbidities that may put them at increased risk for a more severe COVID-19.
“Literature suggests that people living with HIV appear to be at increased risk for severe outcomes and death due to COVID-19 compared with people without HIV.”
Zimbabwe is currently rolling out four vaccines namely Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V and Covaxine and PLHIV are amongst the priority groups to receive vaccines in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Dr Vimbai Mandizvidza, the ZACH Public Health Advisor said the PLHIV 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.
“The lockdowns have been largely successful in slowly down the spread of COVID-19, however, the restrictions in movement have had some effects on People living with HIV (PHLHIV). With the start of the outbreak, it was important to ensure that PLHIV were as healthy as they could be, taking their antiretroviral (ART) medications and achieving viral load suppression
“However, with the lockdowns, there was a risk that PLHIV 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,” said Dr Mandizvidza.
She however said even though there were some interruptions with regards to access to treatment, the ZACH and the Mohcc and partners came through to bridge the gap.
“To reduce the client clinic visits, multi-month dispensing of ART medications was recommended. Recommendations were that clients receive a minimum of 3 months supply of ART and up to a maximum of 6 months depending on the health facility stock status.
“The ZACH pharmacy and laboratory coordinator continues to work with the MOHCC national, provincial and district pharmacy deps to ensure ART stocks do not run out and strengthen the supply chain management systems for medicines and diagnostics.”