If you have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), you should take special precautions against other infections, such as the flu. That’s because you have a disease that makes it difficult for your immune system to fight them. Vaccines (i mmunizations) can help your body defend itself against some of these infections.
Not all vaccines are safe for people with HIV/AIDS. Vaccines made from live viruses should not be given to persons with CD4 counts less than 200 because they contain a weak form of the germ and may cause a mild case of the disease. Fortunately, most of the vaccines for people with HIV/AIDS are “inactivated” vaccines, which don’t contain a living germ.
Vaccine Side Effects and HIV/AIDS
Anyone, regardless of their HIV status, is at risk of side effects associated with vaccines, including:
- Pain, redness, or swelling at the place where you receive the shot
If you have HIV/AIDS, additional considerations about vaccines include:
- Vaccines may increase your viral load
- Vaccines may not work as well if your CD4 count is very low. If your CD4 count is low, it may help to take strong antiretroviral medications before receiving some of the vaccines.
- Vaccines made from a live virus may cause you to get the disease the vaccine is supposed to prevent. If your CD4 count is low, you should avoid live vaccines, such as chickenpox, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and the flu vaccine in the form of a nose spray. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who has had a live vaccine in the past two or three weeks.
- Vaccines may increase your viral load, although this is of little consequence in persons receiving antiretroviral therapy.
If You Travel Out of the Country
If you have HIV, be sure to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B if you are not already immune. Make sure your routine vaccines are up to date and that you have the ones that are required by the country you’re traveling to. However, make sure these are the inactivated, not the live, vaccines. If an inactivated version is not available, do not get the live vaccine. Examples of live vaccines include some forms of typhoid fever vaccine and yellow fever vaccine. Instead, have your doctor provide a letter explaining that you are medically unable to be vaccinated.
Referenced on 25/05/2021
- AIDS InfoNet: “Vaccinations and HIV."
- CDC: “HIV/AIDS and the Flu" and “Preventing Infections During Travel."
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Recommended Immunizations for HIV Positive Adults."