As coronavirus vaccine distribution gathers pace across the U.S., there is limited consensus and some confusion as to which populations should be prioritized for the vaccine. In many cases, vaccine eligibility is determined by states or local health authorities. At the federal level, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) develops guidance on coronavirus vaccine distribution based on the recommendations of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
While early studies suggested that people living with HIV were at no greater risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19 than other groups, subsequent research has produced compelling evidence to the contrary. Larger analyses from studies in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the U.S. have all found evidence of increased risk of hospitalization and mortality. In fact, data from these studies now suggest that people living with HIV are at approximately double the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 compared to those who are HIV negative. Additional smaller multicenter studies in the U.S. and Europe confirm this increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization and mortality in people living with HIV.
The precise reasons for this elevated risk are not entirely clear. But rather than spend precious months trying to clarify their underlying causes, amfAR believes that the available data persuasively demonstrate the need to prioritize access to the vaccine for all people living with HIV without further delay.