Health sciences professor Hasina Samji

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Study to assess COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness among people with HIV

June 16, 2021
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Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Hasina Samji is co-leading a new pandemic-related study comparing vaccine effectiveness in people living with HIV and those who do not have the condition. Researchers will follow 35,000 people living with HIV in B.C. and Ontario and track the COVID-19 vaccine uptake and rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and hospitalizations. 

The study is part of a larger research initiative called COVAXHIV, the most extensive national study to date to evaluate the immunogenicity, safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination in a diverse population of people living with HIV. The research is led by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN) and research collaborators from across Canada.

The research is supported with $1.75 million from the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) and the Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (VSRG). Additional funding from the CIHR, the CTN and Stop the Spread Ottawa, bring the total to more than $2.6 million.

Earlier research has found that most existing vaccines require higher or additional doses to provide optimal protection for those who are living with HIV. Researchers will investigate whether the same is true of COVID-19 vaccines.

Working with study co-lead Ann Burchell, University of Toronto associate professor and research director, St. Michael’s Hospital’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, Unity Health Toronto, Samji says the researchers will also look at social determinants of health to see what effects they have, if any, on COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness.

The research will focus on those who have already received their first vaccine dose, or have already had COVID-19. Researchers say it is crucial that diverse priority populations are studied to understand the efficacy and safety of the vaccines.

“COVID-19 has had significant health and social impacts on all people in Canada, but the negative impacts have been greater for vulnerable populations, including those living with and affected by HIV,” says Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam. "This study will help inform Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, supporting the development of more effective immunization and public health strategies for vulnerable and diverse Canadians living with HIV.”