Vaccine Effectiveness in People Living With HIV (PLWH)

Project Background

COVID-19 may pose as a greater risk for people living with HIV (PLWH), as they already face multiple intersecting vulnerabilities and more often belong to groups that are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Large studies and meta-analyses also suggest that PLWH are at a higher risk of severe outcomes due to COVID-19 compared to those who are HIV-negative.  

Vaccines that prevent COVID-19 can provide critical benefits for this priority vaccination group. However, despite antiretroviral therapy, HIV still weakens the body’s immune response, even when the HIV viral load is fully suppressed. Theoretically, this means that COVID-19 vaccines, which activates the immune response, may not be able to elicit enough response to fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. Yet, PLWH are understudied in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. Additional real-world research is necessary to provide the evidence needed to inform COVID-19 vaccine use in PLWH.  


In collaboration with other sites in Canada and ongoing COVID-19 immunogenicity studies, the main goal of this project is to inform COVID-19 immunization guidelines for PLWH.  

Using health administrative data from the BCC19C, our team’s objective is two-fold:

  1. Estimate and characterize the burden of COVID-19 among PLWH 
  2. Estimate and analyze effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among PLWH

This work is done in collaboration with other groups in Canada including the CIHR Canadian HIV Trial Network (CTN), Unity Health Toronto – St. Michael’s Hospital, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and many more. 

Funded by: Public Health Agency of Canada/Canadian Institutes for Health Research 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Hasina Samji, Dr. Naveed Janjua