Introduction: People living with HIV (PLWH) are at higher risk of poorer COVID-19 outcomes. Vaccination is a safe and effective method of prevention against many infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Here we investigate the strategies for national COVID-19 vaccination programmes across central and eastern Europe and the inclusion of PLWH in vaccination programmes.
Methods: The Euroguidelines in Central and Eastern Europe Network Group consists of experts in the field of infectious diseases from 24 countries in the region. Between 1 November 2020 and 19 March 2021 the group proceeded an on-line survey consisting of 20 questions.
Results: Twenty-two countries (out of 24 invited) participated in the survey and 20/22 countries in the period between December 2020 and March 2021 had already started their COVID-19 vaccination programme. In total, seven different vaccines were used by participating countries. In 17/21 countries (81%), vaccinated persons were centralized within the national registry. In 8/21 countries (38%) PLWH were prioritized for vaccination (the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Montenegro, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) and the Czech Republic, Greece and Serbia had put in place national guidelines for vaccination of PLWH. In 14/20 countries (70%) vaccination was only provided by designated centres. Eighteen respondents (18/21; 85.7%) reported that they planned to follow up HIV patients vaccinated against COVID-19, mainly by measuring antibody levels and checking COVID-19 incidence (11/21; 52.3%).
Conclusions: This survey-based study suggests that there are significant differences in terms of prioritizing PLWH, the types of vaccines used, vaccination coverage, and the development and implementation of a vaccination programmes within the region. Regardless of heterogenicity and existing barriers within the region, systematic vaccination in PLWH should have the highest priority, especially in those with severe immunodeficiency, risk factors, and in the elderly, aiming for prompt and high vaccination coverage.
Keywords: COVID-19; HIV; vaccination.
© 2021 British HIV Association.