HIV patients at higher risk of COVID breakthrough infections, study shows

A new medical study finds that fully vaccinated Americans with HIV have a “significantly higher” risk of COVID-19 breakthrough infections than others.

The study of 113,994 patients, published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, found that only 3.8% experienced a breakthrough infection within nine months of vaccination.

But that number was 28% higher among vaccinated Americans suffering from any stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the retrovirus that causes AIDS.

The study proposes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extend its recommendations for additional doses and boosters of COVID-19 vaccines – which currently include only HIV patients with advanced disease or an unsuppressed HIV viral load – to include all HIV patients.

“Understanding SARS-CoV-2 infection risk after vaccination among [people with HIV] is essential for informing vaccination guidelines,” the study’s authors write.

According to the study, the risk of a breakthrough infection decreased with age for HIV patients, with those older than 55 in the least danger.

“Ultimately, policy makers must determine the appropriate balance between preventing further COVID-19 infections and possibly unnecessary additional vaccinations,” the study says.

A team of 21 doctors and public health researchers published the study, analyzing public health data from adults fully vaccinated before June 30. They analyzed breakthrough infections of the Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 up to Dec. 31.

Two Kaiser Permanente health centers that cover Maryland, Washington, D.C., northern Virginia and California provided much of the data. 

The remainder came from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill HIV Clinic and the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a sample of HIV patients who receive care through the National US Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

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