FAQ: What to Know About HIV & COVID-19 Vaccines

Apicha Community Health Center Feb 19, 2021  

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As of February 19, New Yorkers with HIV are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are HIV-positive and haven't gotten the vaccine yet, it is strongly encouraged that you do so. In this blog, we're going to cover everything you need to know about HIV and COVID-19 vaccines. 

If you're HIV-positive, you should get vaccinated

People with HIV are a priority for vaccination, since many have HIV-related comorbidities that increase risk of severe COVID-19 . They may also face socioeconomic conditions that may increase risk of COVID-19 exposure.

The vaccines are safe and effective. The two authorized COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing COVID-19. In clinical trials, the vaccines were more than 94% effective at protecting trial participants from symptoms of COVID-19.

Protecting communities of color from HIV & COVID-19

HIV and COVID-19 disproportionately affect communities of color. In NYC, 86% of people with HIV diagnosed with COVID-19 are Black or Latino, and these groups have greater mortality associated with HIV and with COVID-19. Furthermore, in NYC, Black and Latino people are less likely to have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Counsel patients with HIV, particularly those who are Black or Latino, that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and provide critical protection for their health.

How to get the vaccine

You can schedule a vaccine appointment through the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC Health Department) at vax4nyc.nyc.gov, NYC Health + Hospitals and NYS. New Yorkers can find a vaccination site and make an appointment at vaccinefinder.nyc.gov. If you need assistance making an appointment at a City-run site, you can call 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692). Please note vaccine supplies are limited, but be sure to check regularly as new appointments will be added as more vaccine becomes available.

How does the vaccine affect people with HIV?

HIV care providers do not need to clear their patients to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are only contraindicated by history of allergic reaction to the vaccine, one of its components or polysorbate. Clinical trials established the general safety and efficacy of these vaccines, but only the Moderna trial included people with HIV.

Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, please note we lack sufficient data on vaccine safety or effectiveness specific to people with HIV and people who are immunocompromised. Because we do not know whether the vaccine will work as well for HIV-positive individuals, you should be especially cautious to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19, even after vaccination.

So, should I still get vaccinated?

Yes! Immunocompromised people may be at increased risk of severe COVID-19. While New Yorkers should limit activities outside the home, no one should forgo regular HIV care or other necessary care. Make sure you are screened for viral load and CD4 count at least every six months and have regular opportunities to discuss any barriers to care. HIV care clinics can provide some care through telehealth or video chat. As always, speak to your medical provider about any concerns. 

What you need to schedule an appointment

Patients need to bring proof that they live in NYS or NYC and are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are eligible because you have HIV and are being vaccinated by your health care provider, your medical records can serve as proof of eligibility. Otherwise, when scheduling an appointment, patients will need to complete a certification confirming you have an underlying health condition that makes you eligible for vaccination. You do not need to state which health condition or provide any other evidence to demonstrate which condition you have. For more information on proof of eligibility, visit nyc.gov/covidvaccine.

On the day of your appointment

If you're not feeling well on the day of your appointment, you should reschedule. Be sure to wear a face covering when traveling to and from your vaccination site and while at your appointment. As mentioned above, you need to bring proof that you live in NYS or NYC and are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

After your vaccine appointment

COVID-19 vaccine is very effective at preventing symptoms and dangerous complications of COVID-19. However, we do not yet know how long protection from the vaccine lasts or whether you could still spread the virus to other people. Therefore, even after vaccination, you will need 2 to continue to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you are sick or recently tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Wear a face covering.
  • Wash your hands often.

Per CDC guidelines, individuals who are considered fully vaccinated (has received 2 doses and it has been more than or equal to 2 weeks since the last dose and within 3 months from the last ) are not be required to quarantine even if they are exposed to COVID-19 positive individuals. 

Learn more about COVID-19, vaccine, and more

If you'd like to learn more about COVID-19, vaccines, or have other questions, you can use the resources below:

How Apicha CHC can help you
Apicha CHC is currently offering COVID-19 testing and limited vaccinations. If you are a patient of Apicha CHC's and eligible, we will contact you to schedule a vaccination when we have available doses.  Please make sure to update your demographic information so that we can contact you when the vaccine is available. You can read more about our services and COVID-19 here. 

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