Can cancer survivors, immunocompromised, HIV-positive receive COVID-19 vaccine?


Posted at Feb 15 2021 04:35 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2021 10:35 PM

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MANILA - People who do not experience allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine can and should receive it, 2 health experts said Monday.

Dr. Rommel Lobo, president of the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (PSAAI), said there are only 2 absolute contraindications for not being vaccinated: "If you have an allergic reaction to your COVID-19 vaccine for the first dose, and if you have been evaluated that you are reacting to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine."

"But if you have asthma, allergic rhinitis, asthma—even severe when controlled—or you have food allergies of any severity, whether you have latex allergy or medicine allergy—IV, oral, or other injectable—, as long as it’s not related to the vaccine, it does not say that you should not be vaccinated. It’s not a contraindication," he told ANC's Headstart.

Even patients who have recovered from cancer, although they are technically part of the immunocompromised population, should get themselves vaccinated, except when they are fresh out of chemotherapy or will be getting one, said Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the government's inter-agency task force against COVID-19.

The reservation for cancer survivors is not because the vaccine is not safe, but "because it might not work because if your immune system is so low, it's not going to take," he said.

"But for the most part, people who are 30 days out of chemotherapy or are already in remission, they should absolutely take the vaccine because even though you’ve recovered from the cancer, that still has an effect on your body and it’s considered a co-morbid and they are a population at risk," he said.

Lobo adds, patients with immunodeficiency and autoimmune disease such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome should also receive the vaccine, as there is no direct causality established between the drug and the disease.

"Those who are immunocompromised, they should be counseled that they may have a lower immune response compared to the normal population. But that doesn’t mean that they should not be vaccinated. They still should be vaccinated because the chances of being infected by COVID-19 and dying of COVID-19 is still high," he said.

Salvana, whose research and training background touches on HIV and its treatment, also said people living with HIV who are undergoing medication can be vaccinated as well against COVID-19 but with caution.

"As long as their CD4 counts are above 200 and they’re on a good antiretroviral regimen, it’s fine," he said.

"The question is if they’re newly diagnosed, they have other infections that can compromise their immunity and their immune cells are not strong enough yet, then the vaccine might not take as well. That’s really the issue. It’s not a contraindication. There are some caution," he explained.

The Philippines expects to receive this month its initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

More than 550,000 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the country, as of Monday, of which, 27,588 are active cases.