COVID Vaccines: Facts for Heart, Stroke Patients


FRIDAY, Jan. 15, 2021 (American Heart Association News) — Experts have a simple answer for heart and stroke patients questioning whether they need a COVID-19 vaccination. That answer: yes.

“People with all kinds of cardiovascular risk factors and disease should definitely get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19,” said Dr. Mitchell Elkind, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

The Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines pose no special problems for such patients, said Elkind, who also is president of the American Heart Association. The AHA issued a statement Friday calling for people with cardiovascular risk factors, heart disease or a history of heart attack or stroke to get vaccinated “as soon as possible.” Getting vaccinated is especially important for them, Elkind said, because people with such underlying conditions have a higher chance of developing complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“People with heart disease or stroke – or for that matter, risk factors for heart disease and stroke – are at much greater risk from the virus than they are from the vaccine,” he said.

The vaccines have side effects, but Elkind called the risk of a complication exceedingly small. “The most likely thing that will occur is a sore arm,” he said. “I can tell you, I got the vaccine, the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. And my arm hurt for a few days, like somebody had punched me there. But I was still able to use my arm and lift it, and that was it.”

People shouldn’t be surprised if they hear about other temporary side effects, said Orly Vardeny, associate professor of medicine at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and University of Minnesota. The FDA’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for example, listed pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever as common reactions.

Vardeny, who has done extensive research on flu vaccines, said such reactions are a sign the body is developing an immune response, “and that’s a good thing. That’s what we want to happen in order for our bodies to make antibodies that will prevent us from getting sick if we encounter the virus again.”


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