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Group 3 Vaccine Access For People Living With HIV In NZ

We are calling on the government of New Zealand to include People living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as part of the group 3 vaccine rollout - people who are at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. We have reached out to the Ministers of Health and the COVID response teams, but have had no response thus far, beyond a recognition of receipt. With the imminent opening of our borders to Australia and beyond, we are at an increased risk of local outbreaks. It is imperative that people living with HIV and other people with compromised immune systems, are protected from serious illness should they contract COVID.

By including People living with HIV as part of Group 3, this would be consistent with the guidance provided by the government at alert level 3, that People living with HIV have significant immunosuppression and should remain at home, as they are at risk of severe illness should they get COVID-19. It would also align with the Australian Vaccine rollout, which has prioritized People living with HIV to Group 1B, and who are currently being vaccinated. This prioritization also aligns with the UNAIDS Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026, which states: When developing priority population groups for vaccines against COVID-19, the Strategy calls on countries to include all people living with HIV in the category of high-risk medical conditions.

We are perplexed why the list of health conditions for vaccine eligibility, is inconsistent with all of these examples and also excludes most of the people eligible for priority access to the annual Flu vaccine. There are currently 3500 people estimated to be living with HIV in New Zealand, this shift in priorities would not adversely affect the vaccine rollout. It is vital that People living with HIV are vaccinated as early as possible to ensure they don’t experience severe disease and potentially death.

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