To discuss any of these FAQs, your options or if you need further information, please call Positive Life NSW on (02) 8357 8386, 1800 245 677 (freecall outside metro) during business hours or email contact@positivelife.org.au

page updated: Monday 18 July 2022

NEW: There are two oral COVID-19 antivirals available on the PBS in Australia.  Nirmatrelvir in combination with ritanovir (sold as Paxlovid) and molnupiravir (sold as Lagevrio).  There are no known drug interactions identified with Lagevrio based on the limited data that is currently available. There are a number of potential complex and serious drug–drug interactions identified with Paxlovid that can result in severe or life-threatening side effects, or reduce the drugs’ effectiveness against COVID-19. These include the HIV antiretroviral medicines, Atazanavir, Darunavir, Efavirenz, Fosamprenavir, Maraviroc, Nevirapine, Saquinavir, Tipranavir, Raltegravir, Zidovudine, and Bictegravir/Emtricitabine/Tenofovir (Biktarvy).

1 Where can I go to find reputable information about the COVID-19 vaccines?

To support you to stay informed, below is a short list of reputable websites where you can learn the latest news about COVID-19, details about the variety of COVID-19 vaccines, and other public health advice relating to people living with HIV in NSW.

2 Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for people living with HIV?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people living with HIV. COVID-19 vaccines meet the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) standards for assessing all COVID-19 vaccines before they can be used in Australia.

3 Will the COVID-19 vaccine have any negative interactions with my antiretroviral HIV medication?

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines interact with HIV antiretroviral medicines or causes HIV viral load to increase.

4 Does the COVID-19 vaccine contain live COVID-19 virus?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines used in Australia contain a live virus that can cause COVID-19.

5 Are people living with HIV at higher risk of poor health outcomes if diagnosed with COVID-19?

So far, studies have shown contradictory conclusions, and more research is needed to show whether people living with HIV are at higher risk of poor health outcomes if diagnosed with COVID-19.  All studies of severe outcomes found that underlying health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and hypertension, contributed substantially to the increased risk observed in people living with HIV.

People living with HIV with a CD4 count below 200 cells/µL, or who are not taking HIV treatment, or who have a detectable viral load may be at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness if they contract COVID-19. People living with HIV with a very low CD4 count (below 50 cells/µL) or who have had an opportunistic illness in the last six months should follow isolation practices under their doctor’s instructions and take extra precautions to prevent acquiring COVID-19.

People living with HIV who are taking HIV treatment and have an undetectable viral load and no other underlying health conditions, and have a CD4 count over 200 cells/µL,  are considered at no greater risk if diagnosed with COVID-19 than the general population.

6 Will the vaccine protect against future strains of the COVID-19 virus?

Currently there are four COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Australia: Comirnaty (Pfizer), Spikevax (Moderna), Nuvaxovid (Novavax) and Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca). Scientists are working on new vaccines and continue to gather data on the protection provided by our current vaccines as the virus evolves. As the coronavirus mutates, and as immunity wanes over time, booster shots are recommended.

7 Do I still need to have the COVID-19 vaccine, if I’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes. People who have had COVID-19 should wait to be vaccinated with your next COVID-19 vaccine, either primary course or booster doses, 3 months after the confirmed infection. This is to optimise your vaccine protection. A longer gap between infection and vaccination is likely to lead to a better immune response and result in longer protection from reinfection.

8 What are the potential side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) considers information about possible side effects as part of the approval process. Every medicine has potential side effects, and this is normal. A small number of people may experience more severe side effects, although these are also temporary. After you receive the vaccine, you will be monitored for a short time for any adverse effects. Potential short term side effects include:

    • pain or redness at the injection site,
    • mild to moderate fever,
    • tiredness,
    • headache,
    • muscle aches,
    • and chills.

If these side effects occur, they might be more common after the second dose.

9 Is the COVID-19 vaccine free if I don’t have Medicare?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia regardless of Medicare or visa status.

10 Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m not eligible for Medicare?

If you’re not eligible for Medicare or don’t hold a Medicare card, you can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free at respiratory clinics and other state-run vaccination clinics. GPs can only give the COVID-19 vaccine to people who hold a Medicare card. To find out where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine, please visit the Vaccine clinic finder or call the National Coronavirus and COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline on 1800 020 080.

11 The Australian Government has updated its advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine. What does this mean for me?

There is a rare but potentially increased risk of thrombosis (blood clotting) with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) in people aged under 59 years, with the AstraZeneca vaccine.  The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends the COVID-19 Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine as the preferred vaccine for those aged 16 to 59 years, but the AstraZeneca vaccine can still be provided to people aged 18 to 59 years of age. People who have had the first dose of AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects, can be given the second dose. This includes people aged under 60 years. People living with HIV may wish to have a detailed discussion with their doctor about the risks and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in line with current health advice, regardless of their age.

12 How can I get proof that I’ve been fully vaccinated?

You can get a COVID-19 digital certificate or your immunisation history statement to show proof of your vaccinations. How you get proof will depend on your situation. This includes if you need to create a myGov account, link services or enrol in Medicare. Visit this page to find out more.

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