Need for Covid vaccination in HIV positive people: Study
Only 55% of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) globally have taken the Covid-19 vaccine, a new study published by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has revealed. Their finding revealed the rate of vaccination among PLHIVs in South Asia, including India, was around 49% and that the vaccination rates varied significantly by geography
Only 55% of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) globally have taken the Covid-19 vaccine, a new study published by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has revealed. The team assessed vaccination data of 6,952 PLHIVs from 12 countries, who were enrolled in another randomised trial, including 469 patients from India. Their finding revealed the rate of vaccination among PLHIVs in South Asia, including India, was around 49% and that the vaccination rates varied significantly by geography.
The study found that the Covid vaccination rates among PLHIVs were lowest in South Africa (18%), Uganda (3%) and Haiti (0%), while countries like the United States, Peru, Brazil had higher vaccination rates at 72%, 69% and 63% respectively. The vaccination rate in the Southeast Asia region was 41% and Sub-Saharan Africa was 18%.
HIV attacks the immune system. Its chronic and advanced stage is known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Due to the suppressed immunity of the infected patients, they become vulnerable to catching other bacterial, viral and fungal infections and are therefore at a high risk of catching Covid-19 as well.
“As this is the first report of vaccination rates among a large, international cohort of people living with HIV from diverse Global Burden of Disease regions, these findings inform the field on overall and region-specific vaccination rates,” said Steven Grinspoon, chief of the Metabolism Unit at MGH and senior author of the study in a press statement. “Given that the data highlight major inequities in rates across regions, public health officials should use these data to increase efforts to provide access to vaccines for people living with HIV, particularly in those groups vulnerable to Covid-19 morbidity and mortality.” The study was published Journal of Infectious Diseases.
India has around 23.49 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS, according to a 2019 estimate report of the Government of India. But country-wise estimates of how many PLHIVs have taken the Covid vaccine are not available. In Maharashtra, there are nearly 2.5 lakh people who are currently on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and just 20% have taken the Covid-19 shots. According to the Maharashtra AIDS Control Society (MDACS) around 50,687 PLHIVs have taken the first dose and 30,402 are fully vaccinated in the state.
“There has been a lot of hesitancy among the PLHIVs to take the Covid jab since the beginning of the drive,” said Manoj Pardeshi, board member of the National Coalition of People Living with HIV in India. “Some believed that they would get Covid through the vaccine, while some were paranoid about falling severely ill. We have conducted several webinars, initiated discussions on WhatsApp and have been encouraging them to take the jabs. Our efforts have worked in several pockets where the vaccination coverage improved drastically,” he said citing the example of Pune where the overall PLHIV vaccination coverage stands at 98.7%. He said that a small number of the PLHIVs who have been bedridden or confined to their homes have not been covered.
“We are now reaching out to the government authorities to allow home vaccination for them and also allow booster shots for PLHIVs as their immunity with the two doses of the Covid vaccine may still not be very high,” he said.