HIV patients should have flu jab despite warnings, pharmacy group urges

Flu vaccine

HIV pharmacy specialists have warned that some HIV patients could be mistakenly being told that they should not take antiretrovirals at the same time as receiving the seasonal flu vaccination.

The HIV Pharmacy Association (HIVPA) and British HIV Association (BHIVA) said they had received reports that some GP computer systems were giving a ‘high severity’ warning regarding influenza vaccinations.

The warning was reported to state: “Drug to drug interaction. Avoid antivirals for at least two weeks after immunisation; avoid immunisation for at least 48 hours after stopping the antiviral.”

But the HIVPA and BHIVA stressed that it was safe to give patients on antiretroviral therapy the influenza vaccine without compromising either the vaccine or the patient’s HIV treatment.

HIVPA said it believed warnings following the alert were down to confusion between antivirals and antiretrovirals.

An HIVPA spokesperson said: “We believe the interaction alert some GP systems are showing is with respect to neuraminidase inhibitors used to treat influenza infection and does not apply to antiretroviral agents used to treat [or prevent] HIV.

“We have reviewed the Summary of Product Characteristics for both Sanofi Quadrivalent and Fluvarix Tetra and confirm that there is no contraindication to treatment in patients taking antiretroviral agents.”

People living with HIV are advised to have a flu vaccine and not stop their antiretrovirals unless advised by the BHIVA. They are considered to be an at-risk group and are eligible for a free annual flu vaccination.

Sharon Jay, co-chair of the HIVPA, said there was a simple message for HIV patients considering being given a flu vaccination.

“Do not stop taking your antiretrovirals, and have a flu vaccine as advised in the Department of Health guidelines,” she said.

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, October 2017;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203717