Researchers Warn of Heightened Risk of HIV With Certain COVID-19 Vaccines

As the race to approval of a safe and effective vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues, a group of researchers is warning some of these vaccines could make patients more susceptible to contracting HIV.

Writing in The Lancet, the researchers are urging caution when it comes to the use of adenovirus type-5 (Ad5) vectored vaccines for COVID-19, recalling their research from a decade ago on an Ad5 vectored vaccine in 2 HIV vaccine trials.

“On the basis of these findings, we are concerned that use of an Ad5 vector for immunisation against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) could similarly increase the risk of HIV-1 acquisition among men who receive the vaccine,” wrote the researchers. “Both the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics disproportionately affect vulnerable populations globally. Roll-out of an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine globally could be given to populations at risk of HIV infection, which could potentially increase their risk of HIV-1 acquisition.”

There are several clinical trials assessing Ad5 vectored vaccine candidates underway, including by China’s CanSino Biologics and California-based ImmunityBio.

The group’s ”cautionary tale” stems from the Step and Phambili phase 2b trials that studied the efficacy of an Ad5 vectored HIV-1 vaccine in preventing HIV infection. Across both international studies, they found that the vaccine actually increased the risk of HIV among the vaccinated men.

The findings from the Phambili study, in particular, have important implications for the use of the vaccines in COVID-19, according to the researchers, as findings from this study showed that heterosexual men receiving the Ad5 vectored vaccine faced a consistently increased risk of HIV infection. Notably, this increased risk appeared to be limited to men, with women not having an observed increase of infection in the study.

In the Step trial, the risk of acquiring HIV was particularly high among men who were uncircumcised and Ad5 seropositive men who reported having unprotected anal sex with a partner who was HIV seropositive or who had unknown serostatus as baseline.

Of note, the vaccine in both studies did not have the HIV envelope. Meanwhile, in another study that used a DNA prime and an Ad5 vector, both of which had the HIV envelope, there was no observed increase in HIV infection.

The reason for the observed increase in HIV risk remains uncertain, although several follow-up studies have suggested a potential explanation, according to the researchers.

“The vaccine was highly immunogenic in the induction of HIV-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells; however, there was no difference in the frequency of T-cell responses after vaccination in men who did and did not later become infected with HIV in the Step Study,” they wrote. “These findings suggest that immune responses induced by the HIV-specific vaccine were not the mechanism of increased acquisition.

Participants with high frequencies of preimmunisation Ad5-specific T cells were associated with a decreased magnitude of HIV-specific CD4 responses and recipients of the vaccine had a decreased breadth of HIV-specific CD8 responses, suggesting that pre-existing Ad5 immunity might dampen desired vaccine-induced responses.”

Other exploratory studies have indicated that the vaccine enhances HIV replication in CD4 T cells or that Ad5-specific CD4 T cells could be more susceptible to HIV infection.

Jaime Rosenberg


Buchbinder SP, McElrath MJ, Dieffenback C, Corey L. Use of adenovirus type-5 vectored vaccines: a cautionary tale. Lancet. Published online October 19, 2020.doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32156-5





A new paper warns the link between COVID-19 vaccines and HIV risk.

Mayo Clinic

Nearly half of people in the U.S. diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are over 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV damages the body’s immune system, and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. Does that make it more difficult to fight off COVID-19? Dr. Stacey Rizza, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic, says, “We know that anybody who has a suppressed immune system may have an altered response to the virus that causes COVID-19. We know that older people whose immune systems are a little weaker, and people who have medical issues or organ diseases, are going to generally do worse with the infection.

If somebody has HIV and their immune system is weaker, meaning they’re not on therapy, or they’re earlier on in their therapy and their CD4 count is still low, they may be at risk of having a worse reaction to the virus. We will learn more about SARS-CoV-2 on people living with HIV over time.” Read more:… More health and medical news on the Mayo Clinic News Network. Journalists: Clean and nat sound versions of this pkg available for download at Register (free) at…

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Can Vitamin D Help With Covid-19 Coronavirus? Here Is The Science


There is a “D” in Covid-19. But can a lack of Vitamin D make you more susceptible to the Covid-19 coronavirus? Well, some studies have suggested this possibility. However, before you rush to the store and start hoarding Vitamin D supplements like they were toilet paper, let’s “D”-construct the currently available evidence.

If you think that Vitamin D only has to do with bone health, you may be wondering what it could possibly have to do with Covid-19. After all, you may have a bone to pick with the virus but its main effects don’t seem to be on your skeleton. Well, studies have shown that Vitamin D may affect different components of your immune system and its response to infection. It may help modulate your lymphocytes and the inflammation-producing chemicals like cytokines that are important components of your immune response to invading viruses.

This could potentially possibly perhaps be relevant for Covid-19 because badness may result when your immune system overreacts to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2). As I’ve described previously for Forbes, since your immune system is not used to seeing the SARS-CoV2, your immune system can act like someone experiencing something like sex for the first time. It can be a bit, ahem, quick on the trigger and start trying all kinds of random things, many of which don’t really work. Some of which may cause damage to the surroundings, which can happen when someone doesn’t understand sex as well. Therefore, better regulating the immune response could be beneficial.

Back in 2017, the BMJ published a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, placebo controlled clinical trials that evaluated how Vitamin D supplementation may affect the risk of getting acute respiratory tract infections. The review returned 25 such trials. The combined results revealed that those who received Vitamin D supplementation had a 12% lower likelihood of getting an acute respiratory tract infection. Although the authors of this systematic review concluded that “Vitamin D supplementation was safe and it protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall,” a letter to the BMJ warned that people shouldn’t go overboard with these recommendations, that taking too much Vitamin D has it’s risk too. But more on this later.

Additionally, while this systematic review suggested that Vitamin D supplementation could be associated with a lower risk of respiratory tract infections, it still did not prove that it can prevent such infections. The jury is still out. And it’s not all taking Vitamin D.

Even if Vitamin D were proven to offer some benefits against other respiratory tract infections, this SARS-CoV-2 ain’t your everyday respiratory virus. It’s continued to prove that it’s very different from adenoviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV), influenza viruses, and other more common viruses that can infect your respiratory tract. If respiratory viruses had Spice Girl names, SARS-CoV2 would be Scarily Unpredictable Spice. So what holds for other viruses may not hold for the SARS-CoV2.

What then can be said about Vitamin D and SARS-CoV2? Well, the little evidence that’s available for this new virus is, shall we say, quite in-D-rect. Existing studies have looked at possible correlations and associations, which do not prove cause and effect.

For example, a manuscript posted on MedRxiv described a study that analyzed data from Germany, South Korea, China, Switzerland, Iran, the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, and U.S. and found that 17.3% of those with severe Vitamin D deficiency had severe COVID-19 compared to 14.6% of those with normal Vitamin D levels. Keep in mind that posting a manuscript on MedRxiv doesn’t mean that the manuscript has undergone peer-review or will every make it to an respected scientific journal. It simply meant that the authors had Internet access and were able to able to follow a set of instructions to upload the manuscript. In theory, one could post a manuscript describing how teddy bears are the cause of all problems in the world on such a platform.

Then, there was the study published in the Irish Medical Journal, which showed that countries in Europe where older adults tend to have lower Vitamin D levels like Spain and Italy also tended to have higher Covid-19 coronavirus infection rates and mortality than those with higher Vitamin D levels like Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Simply showing such a correlation does not really prove much as many things could vary along with both Vitamin D levels and Covid-19 outcomes. As you can imagine, Spain and Italy are quite different from Norway, Sweden and Finland in numerous ways beyond just Vitamin D levels. For example, Spain and Italy never produced something like ABBA. Additionally, Italy and Spain faced the virus earlier than the Nordic countries and didn’t implement social distancing measures before the virus had a chance to spread widely. On top of all that, a study published in the journal Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome found no correlation between Vitamin D levels and Covid-19 infection risk among 348,598 people in the U.K.

All told, right now, the grade for the amount of scientific evidence linking Vitamin D levels and Covid-19 risk would be not much better than a D. It hasn’t completely failed, but it’s not ready for a pass.

So what should you do about the D during the pandemic? In some ways you can treat Vitamin D like toilet paper. Not literally, of course. Vitamin D supplements may help when the sun don’t shine, but ain’t supposed to go where the sun don’t shine. Instead, it’s all about determining what you really need while practicing moderation and not having unrealistic expectations. Neither toilet paper not Vitamin D are the be all that ends all.

If you have low Vitamin D levels already, then getting more Vitamin D can be beneficial for things such as bone health anyways. So why not try increase your levels? Diet alone (e.g., oily fish, egg yolks, fortified dairy products) often does not provide enough of the D so Vitamin D supplements could help. Even when your levels are normal, a little extra Vitamin D likely won’t hurt. What you want to avoid is overdoing it, taking too much Vitamin D so that you run into problems, like too high calcium levels, gastrointestinal issues, bone loss, and even kidney failure.

Regardless, don’t rely on Vitamin D to protect you from the Covid-19 coronavirus. The jury’s still out on its effects. Moreover, even if were to have some positive impact, it certainly won’t do what social distancing, good hand hygiene, and properly disinfecting objects will do. It also wouldn’t do what a vaccine would be able to do. If you disregard social distancing and start mixing closely with others because you think Vitamin D is somehow protecting you, you would be making the wrong D-cision.

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I am a writer, journalist, professor, systems modeler, computational and digital health expert, avocado-eater, and entrepreneur, not always in that order. Currently, I am a Professor of Health Policy and Management at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health, Executive Director of PHICOR (@PHICORteam), Professor By Courtesy at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and founder and CEO of Symsilico. My previous positions include serving as Executive Director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University, Associate Professor of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, and Senior Manager at Quintiles Transnational, working in biotechnology equity research at Montgomery Securities, and co-founding a biotechnology/bioinformatics company. My work has included developing computational approaches, models, and tools to help health and healthcare decision makers in all continents (except for Antarctica) and has been supported by a wide variety of sponsors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NIH, AHRQ, CDC, UNICEF, USAID and the Global Fund. I have authored over 200 scientific publications and three books. Follow me on Twitter (@bruce_y_lee) but don’t ask me if I know martial arts.



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My opinion is that you keep the correct levels of vitamin D in your body. Now a days, due to staying indoors, it is possible that you will develop the deficiency of vitamin D. Get this checked by your doctor and use the correct dose to stay healthy.


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