NYMC Faculty Publications

COVID-19 Vaccines for HIV-Infected Patients

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Review Article

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Nearly 40 years have passed since the initial cases of infection with the human mmunodeficiency virus (HIV) were identified as a new disease entity and the cause of acquired immunodeficiency disease (AIDS). This virus, unlike any other, is capable of causing severe suppression of our adaptive immune defense mechanisms by directly infecting and destroying helper T cells leading to increased susceptibility to a wide variety of microbial pathogens, especially those considered to be intracellular or opportunistic. After T cells are infected, HIV reproduces itself via a somewhat unique mechanism involving various metabolic steps, which includes the use of a reverse transcriptase enzyme that enables the viral RNA to produce copies of its complementary DNA. Subsequent physiologic steps lead to the production of new virus progeny and the eventual death of the invaded T cell. Fortunately, both serologic and molecular tests (such as PCR) can be used to confirm the diagnosis of an HIV infection. In the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that people living with HIV/AIDS are equally or slightly more susceptible to the etiologic agent, SARS-CoV-2, than the general population having intact immune systems, but they may have more serious outcomes. Limited clinical trials have also shown that the currently available COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective in affording protection to HIV/AIDS patients. In this review, we further explore the unique dynamic of HIV/AIDS in the context of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of vaccines as a protective measure against COVID-19, as well as what immune parameters and safeguards should be monitored in this immunocompromised group following vaccination.