Friday 19 February 2021
An additional 1.7 million people in England have been added to the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ list for COVID-19 based on a new risk calculator called QCovid. QCovid is based on a combination of factors which include ethnicity, housing, obesity and specific health conditions. If you have been told that you are in this group it means that you are on the Shielding List and so you are in priority group 4 for COVID vaccination. You are also eligible for additional support - see the Shielding Support Website: www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support. You can find your local council’s details at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-local-help.
It is not yet clear how HIV is counted in the calculation, if at all, and so we have asked the team who developed it for clarity. There are many cases where people who are NOT high risk have been advised to shield because it has been based on incorrect information and we have contacted the Department of Health to express our concerns about the accuracy of the coding that prompts the new shielding advice. This affects many people, with and without HIV. If you have HIV and you have been added to the Shielded Patient list it may be for non-HIV reasons or it may be wrong. You can be taken off that list by your GP and we are investigating if HIV clinics can do the same.
An important issue to consider is relative versus absolute risk: a 5x higher risk of severe COVID (relative risk) sounds very alarming BUT if the actual risk of getting severe COVID is 1 in 20,000 (absolute risk) that translates to 1 in 4,000 which is still a LOW RISK. The risk of getting COVID will depend on how common COVID is in the population, whether you follow social distancing guidance and hygiene recommendations like washing your hands and vaccination. None of these are considered in the current risk calculations.
We continue to advise that people living with HIV who are at increased risk of COVID should shield. The BHIVA & THT advice about risk remains unchanged and can be found here:
with Plain English version here:
For now, if you think you have received shielding advice by mistake, try to speak to your GP or your clinician so they can review the decision with you.
In terms of access to COVID vaccination, there are a number of issues we are hoping to resolve and we will update this guidance as solutions emerge:
1. access for people not registered with a GP;
2. access for people who have not shared their HIV status with their GP;
3. access for people not ‘coded’ as a priority group despite their GP knowing their HIV status.