Canadian scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines


A group of B.C. and Ontario researchers are beginning a study on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines on people living with HIV.

The $2.6 million study, funded by the federal government, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and and Stop the Spread Ottawa, will recruit 400 people with HIV from clinics in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

“There have been very limited data from clinical trials for this at-risk community,” said principal investigator Dr. Aslam Anis, national director of the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network and director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.

“The results of this study will provide critical and timely evidence to inform immunization guidelines and public health strategies for all of the approximately 67,000 Canadians living with HIV.”

While a small number of people with HIV who are in stable condition and otherwise health have been included in some previous COVID-19 vaccine trials, researchers don’t believe that data can be generalized to the entire population of people with the condition.

“Our COVAXHIV study focuses on older patients, those who have suppressed levels of white blood cells that fight infection (CD4 T-cells), and people with multiple medical conditions,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Cecilia Costiniuk, associate professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

The first part of the study will look at how well their vaccine antibodies fight off the virus for up to a year post-immunization and responses will be compared to a 100-person control group. The second part of the study will look at vaccine effectiveness of people with HIV compared to people who do not through a population-based analysis of provincial public health records in Ontario and British Columbia.

“We will follow more than 35,000 people living with HIV in both provinces to note COVID-19 vaccine uptake and rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and hospitalization, which will allow us to study vaccine effectiveness in this population,” said Dr. Ann Burchell, associate professor at the University of Toronto and research director at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, Unity Health Toronto.

“We will also be looking at social determinants of health such as sex, age, geography and socioeconomic status to see what effects they have, if any, on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”

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