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COVID-19: Bayelsa government reassures those living with HIV on safe vaccination

11 February 2022   |   11:55 am
The Bayelsa Commissioner for Health, Dr Pabara Newton-Igwele, has reassured persons living with HIV in the state that they can safely get the coronavirus vaccination.

The Bayelsa Commissioner for Health, Dr Pabara Newton-Igwele, has reassured persons living with HIV in the state that they can safely get the coronavirus vaccination.

Newton-Igwele, who was represented by Dr Jones Stow, Director, Public Health, Bayelsa State, Ministry of Health, said this on Friday in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, during a one-day sensitisation on COVID-19 prevention, testing and vaccination for the Bayelsa state chapter of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NEPHWAN) and Frontline Health workers from Yenagoa and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was organized by the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health with support from USAID/Breakthrough ACTION-Nigeria.

The commissioner said “We strongly recommend that everyone living with HIV should have the COVID-19 vaccine when they are offered it.

“Some of the vaccines the state has received, such as the Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, are specifically for people living with HIV.

“At present, there has been no evidence presented to suggest that people with HIV have a different response to the COVID-19 vaccine,” he added.

He noted that based on the composition and mechanism of action of vaccines against COVID-19, the state can assume that they should be safe for people living with HIV.

“None of the vaccines, currently being scaled up or undergoing regulatory review, use live viruses as the mechanism to stimulate antibodies, and it is live vaccines that are most likely to cause problems for people living with HIV.

“For people living with HIV, the COVID-19 vaccines bring the same benefits they give to all other individuals and communities, including the prevention of severe disease due to COVID-19 and potentially reduced transmission of the SARS-CoV2 virus.

“People living with HIV should ensure that they are taking effective HIV antiviral treatment which not only keeps people healthy, but also prevents ongoing transmission of HIV.

“Although everything happened very quickly, the vaccine trials still present the same results, and the same safety monitoring mechanism, with the same external independent group monitoring that safety.

“There are no concerns around interaction with HIV medication at all,” he explained.

The commissioner added that there are no evidence to suggest that any of the vaccines approved so far would be unsafe for people with HIV.

Dr. Adunola Oyegoke, Senior Programme Officer, Partner Liaison, Breakthrough Action Nigeria, said that while the COVID-19 vaccine shots do not increase one’s likelihood of developing AIDS, stigma and misinformation can negatively impact the mental and physical health of people living with HIV.

“Misinformation and fear mongering are key drivers of HIV stigma and also COVID-19,” she said.

According to Oyegoke, “This is part of efforts by Breakthrough Action Nigeria to support the country public health institutions to address widely-shared misinformation, to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating on the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.

According to Mrs Rose Nwokezie, Coordinator NEPHWAN, Bayelsa state, said, as someone who has been living with HIV for a while now, “I did not hesitate to get vaccinated.”

Nwokezie said it was essential for people living with HIV to know that their medication would not reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, and receiving a vaccine does not affect how well their HIV medication works.

“Experts have recommended the COVID-19 vaccination for all people living with HIV, regardless of CD4 count.

“’To anyone who may be considering getting vaccinated. Please, do your own research, and be sure to make the best-informed decision for yourself,” she advised.