People living HIV should get vaccinated against Covid-19, says the Ministry of Health and Child Care, dispelling speculation that the jab may cause severe side effects.
The ministry’s health promotions manager Mr Paul Chinakidzwa told a virtual media briefing on HIV and Covid-19 vaccination, organised by Zimbabwe Association of Church-Related Hospitals, that those living with HIV needed to line up and noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the use of these vaccines.
“The vaccine often includes genetic material from SARS-Cov-2, but do not contain the whole virus so as a result of that the virus does not replicate. Since they are not live vaccines they are not expected to be less safe in people who are immune compromised,” he said.
“No pharmacological interactions have been reported between Covid-19 vaccines and the antiretroviral drugs.
“People living with HIV should continue to take the antiretroviral therapy even after receiving vaccination in order to maintain their health and to prevent onward HIV transmission.”
Those living with HIV and not taking ART or whose HIV infection is not well managed may be at increased risk for contracting Covid-19 due to having a compromised immune system and risk having serious symptoms that lead to death.
Social media has been awash with fake news aimed to discourage people from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
ZACH public heath advisor Dr Vimbai Mandizvidza said the major challenge facing people living with HIV is the restriction of movement to access health services.
“We noted that there has been reduced access to health services by clients due to lockdown movement restrictions and transport issues. The clients failing to access care at sites of their choice and others fear problems at police roadblocks if they disclose their HIV status,” she said.
She also said there have been supply chain challenges as the pandemic affected the movement of procured medications and laboratory consumables.
Dr Mandizvidza said ZACH will continue to work with the Ministry of Health to ensure that they never run out of ART stocks.
“However, to reduce the client clinic visits multi-month (between three to six months) dispensing of ART medications was recommended depending on the health facility stock status.
“The ZACH pharmacy and laboratory coordinator continues to work with the Ministry national, provincial and district pharmacy departments to ensure ART stocks do not run out and strengthen the supply chain management systems for medicines and diagnostics.”