(CMC) — The Guyana government Monday urged people living with HIV to get vaccinated to protect themselves against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony, speaking at the daily COVID-19 updates, said that this is important because the immune system of a person living with HIV is more susceptible to the virus, especially if that person is not on medication.
“It is recommended that persons with HIV take the COVID -19 vaccine because it’s going to protect them. The benefits of being vaccinated, far outweigh the risk of not being vaccinated, and in some cases, persons whose immune systems are compromised, some of those patients it’s also recommended that they get a third dose of the vaccine or a booster shot,” Dr Anthony said.
He said people can use any of the vaccines available in Guyana which are being used for the adult population. These include the Johnson and Johnson, Sputnik V, Sinopharm, or Astra Zeneca.
The Health Minister said that people currently taking ARVs (antiretrovirals) or PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) should not worry about adverse effects of the vaccine, as these work differently in the body.
“The mechanism of action are totally different, vaccines help to stimulate the immune system so that your body can produce antibodies that can fight off Covid-19 virus. Antiretrovirals — they work differently, they interrupt the life cycle of the HIV and therefore their actions are totally different, and there is no interaction between the two.”
Dr Anthony advised individuals with HIV to follow the recommended protocols as the general population, so as to guard against contracting the disease. These include wearing of masks, proper hand sanitisation and social distancing.
“There are lots of hesitancy among the HIV population, they probably have various myths about why they shouldn’t be vaccinated, but all the evidence is pointing that they need to be vaccinated,.”
The estimated number of people living with HIV in Guyana is more than 8,000.
Meanwhile, the health ministry is reporting 3,907 active COVID-19 cases, with 59 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours. There are 107 people in hospitals across the country with 72 of those people currently at the Ocean View Hospital, 24 of which are in the ICU. Six are maternal cases.
The authorities said that so far, 373,398 people have been vaccinated with a first dose of a COVID vaccine, representing 72.8 per cent of the adult population, while 231,729 people have been fully vaccinated, amounting to 45.2 per cent of the adult population.