Vaccinations are an important part of protecting your
health and, in some cases, the health of those around you.
Most vaccinations are received in early childhood and
protect your health into adulthood. Others are given to people throughout their
lives, depending on their level of risk or need. Vaccinations are particularly
important for people with HIV as they may be at higher risk of getting certain
infections, or more likely to have a serious illness if they get an infection.
You can make an appointment with your GP for
information and advice about vaccinations. Your GP will also administer most
vaccinations. People with HIV are strongly advised to receive certain
vaccinations. Some vaccinations may not be suitable or used only with caution,
such as those using a live version of the virus (for example, yellow fever),
but this may depend on your CD4 cell count.
Disclosing your HIV status to your GP is important if
you are likely to need vaccinations. If you do not disclose your HIV status,
your GP will be unable to advise you accurately on the vaccinations you might
need or whether it is safe for you to receive them. Without your GP knowing
your HIV status, you may not be considered at high risk for certain conditions
and could be asked to pay for the related vaccinations.
The following are vaccinations that adults with HIV
are eligible to receive on the NHS (free of charge). For a list of vaccinations
available for children see GP services for children below.
The flu vaccine.
The influenza (‘flu’) virus is very common in the UK and is one of the
main vaccinations you may visit your GP to receive.
The flu vaccine (or ‘jab’) is provided every year,
free of charge to people considered at high risk, usually from October onwards.
People with a weakened immune system, including people with HIV, are considered
a high-risk group. The flu vaccine is available from your GP; surgeries often
hold vaccination sessions in the autumn. Your GP or practice nurse will
administer it. Having a flu jab is particularly important if you have a low CD4
count or are currently pregnant. Partners or carers who live with you may also
pneumococcal vaccine. People with HIV are considered at risk of pneumococcal
infection, which can be prevented by the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine is
provided free of charge to high-risk groups in the UK, which includes people
with certain long-term conditions, including HIV. Whilst only one dose of this
vaccine is usually required, people with a weakened immune system may need
additional doses. Your GP can advise you on this.
vaccine. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommends that
people with HIV are vaccinated against hepatitis B unless they are immune.
Tests can tell whether you currently have natural immunity to hepatitis B,
perhaps because you have had an earlier infection with it. Unlike other
vaccinations, you can get the hepatitis B vaccine (a series of three injections
over six months) at your HIV clinic if you would prefer that.
Chickenpox (varicella) vaccine. The chickenpox
vaccine is a ‘live’ vaccine and is generally not recommended for people with a
weakened immune system. In some cases, though, the benefit of a person with HIV
receiving this vaccine may outweigh the risks. BHIVA recommends people with HIV
receive this vaccine if their CD4 count is above 200.
It is recommended that people who have close contact
with people with HIV also have the chickenpox vaccine.
If you think you may have been exposed to the varicella zoster virus (through contact
with either chickenpox or shingles), contact your GP within 96 hours; they can prescribe
a drug (VariZIG) that may prevent
(BCG) vaccine. Although tuberculosis (TB) is a common co-infection in
people with HIV, the tuberculosis (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, orBCG) vaccine is not recommended for
people with HIV. You may have already received a vaccination against TB if you
were born in the UK.
mumps and rubella) vaccine. This is a live vaccine, but is
considered safe for people with HIV who have a CD4 cell count above 200. The
MMR normally provides lifelong protection, but this may not be the case for
someone with HIV. Talk to your doctor about whether you might need to be
revaccinated. Vaccination against rubella is particularly important for women
thinking of having a baby, because of the effects rubella can have on an unborn
Your GP can also provide other vaccinations, such as
those recommended when travelling to certain countries. See Travel