10.JUN.2021 3 MIN READ | 3 MIN READ

Pre-existing health conditions make for tricky territory, and may pose valid concerns when it comes to vaccinations.

The ongoing pandemic poses significant risks to those with a heart condition, as they are at increased risk of more severe complications if they do contract COVID-19. Relief has finally come in the form of vaccines, but apart from their efficacy, the question as to whether or not they’re suitable for those afflicted with heart disease begs an answer.

The impact of COVID-19 on pre-existing heart conditions

When COVID-19 first came into the picture, it was thought to affect only the respiratory system. As medical authorities flocked to investigate, it became clear that while the virus first attacks the lungs and airways, the infection eventually makes its way to the cardiovascular system. Hence, people with pre-existing heart conditions are more vulnerable to the virus. Pre-existing heart conditions can include anything from coronary artery disease to heart failure.

What’s more concerning is that heart disease typically affects older people; a pairing that may be fatal in the face of COVID-19. Senior citizens also tend to have more health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

This virus may bring about inflammation in the heart and cause heart attacks or cardiac arrest. Giving further credence to the link between heart disease and susceptibility to the virus, heart patients suffering from COVID-19 are 12 times as likely to succumb to the virus.

Can people with heart disease get vaccinated?

Can people with heart disease get vaccinated?
Several vaccines have been developed, distributed and administered around the world, from developed nations to developing countries. Some vaccines have been met with hesitation amid reports of blood clots. Articles drawing a link between vaccines and heart conditions have also been gaining traction, but these claims have been debunked by medical authorities.

The vaccine is safe to be administered to heart patients, with no established link between the vaccine’s potential side effects and pre-existing heart conditions. Clinical trials have been conducted on patients with varying pre-existing health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. There have not been any reported side effects or complications found after the vaccines were administered on these patients.

Since the vaccine is deemed to be medically safe for heart patients, those with heart conditions are strongly recommended to get vaccinated once it becomes available to them. This can diminish their risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, thereby protecting them against potential complications that may develop from having the virus.

The vaccine is safe for most individuals with pre-existing health conditions, except for patients with anaphylaxis that have a documented history of allergies or allergic reactions. Anaphylaxis is a rare life-threatening allergic reaction that may sometimes occur after vaccination, with onset usually occurring within minutes to hours. If someone is detected with anaphylaxis after the first dose, they will not be eligible for the second one.

Potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine

Potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include slight pain and redness at or near the injection site. A low-grade fever is also common. Additionally, headaches, muscular pain, diarrhoea, and fatigue have also been reported.

It is pertinent to mention that side effects vary from person to person, but none of them last long. Serious side effects, while possible, are rare. One of the rare serious side effects reported is cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT), which is a type of blood clotting in the brain. So far, this side effect has only been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. More recently, there have been reports of myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – among those administered with the mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna). These cases have been observed primarily in healthy young males, aged 16 – 19, and are often mild cases that respond well to medical treatment.

Consult a heart specialist if in doubt

Consult a heart specialist
If you have a pre-existing heart condition and are still unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccination, consider seeing a cardiologist to have your concerns addressed. Your doctor will be able to assess your health and help you determine if you are fit to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Article reviewed by Dr Kenneth Ng, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital

References

Retrieved 4/5/21 from https://www.myheart.org.sg/press-and-media/heart-news/heart-patient-and-covid19-vaccine/

Retrieved 4/5/21 from https://www.moh.gov.sg/COVID-19/vaccination

Retrieved 4/5/21 from https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)-vaccines-safety

Retrieved 4/5/21 from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2021/01/15/what-heart-and-stroke-patients-should-know-about-covid-19-vaccines

Retrieved 4/5/21 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/myocarditis.html

Retrieved 4/5/21 from https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/covid-19-vaccine-janssen-ema-finds-possible-link-very-rare-cases-unusual-blood-clots-low-blood

10.JUN.2021
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Ng Kwan Chung Kenneth
Cardiologist
Mount Elizabeth Hospital

Dr Kenneth Ng is a cardiologist with more than 10 years of experience, and currently practises out of his clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. He specialises in caring for patients through preventive cardiology. He also has an interest in advanced heart failure, which he manages through artificial heart pumps, heart failure surgery and heart transplantation.