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SARS-CoV-2 vaccine advice for adults living with HIV: British HIV Association (BHIVA) & Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) guidance

This guidance will evolve rapidly; please see the BHIVA website for the latest version

Monday 11 January 2021


The UK was the first country to approve the use of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, Pfizer’s BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, to prevent COVID-19 disease on 2nd December 2020. The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine was also approved for use in December 2020, with vaccinations beginning on 4th January 2021, and the Moderna vaccine on 8th January 2021 with first UK doses expected Spring 2021.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is a branch of the Department of Health and Social Care, regulates medicines in the UK and monitors safety once a product has been approved. The MHRA, with advice from the independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, make recommendations for approval of medicines in the UK.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is an independent group of experts who advise the Government health departments in the four UK nations on immunisations and the prevention of infectious disease. The JCVI advise how best to get vaccines to the public and where further research or surveillance may be required; their priority for COVID-19 vaccinations is to reduce mortality and serious disease, and protect the NHS and social care system.

Are the vaccines live?

No, none of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in development are live. Of the two most advanced vaccines:

  • Pfizer’s BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine are both synthetic mRNA vaccines

  • AstraZeneca’s ChAdOx1 vaccine is replication-defective chimpanzee adenovirus-vectored vaccine expressing a sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 gene

Who will be prioritised to get the vaccine early?

The JCVI has recommended nine priority groups based on age, residency in care institutions, occupation and the presence of medical conditions or treatments that suppress the immune system. These priority groups are estimated to include 99% of the people at risk of dying from COVID-19 and are outlined in the Green Book chapter on COVID-19:

The JCVI has recommended nine priority groups

Priority group 4: Clinically Extremely Vulnerable