A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine.
Have concerns about COVID-19 caused you to delay seeking care for symptoms of heart disease or a heart attack? Are you wondering whether the COVID vaccine is safe for people with heart conditions? According to Manesh Patel, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Duke Health, seeking care for your heart and getting a COVID vaccine are the best things you can do to protect yourself against worsening heart disease and severe illness due to COVID-19. This is especially true for certain populations, like Black Americans, who are at higher risk for both.
The Connection Between COVID-19 and Heart Health
Research shows that people with heart conditions like heart failure and coronary artery disease are at increased risk for hospitalization including intensive care, respiratory support, and death due to COVID-19.1 In addition, the virus can actually cause heart damage in people, even when symptoms weren’t severe.2
Black Americans Disproportionately Affected
Unfortunately, racial minorities including Black Americans are more likely to be affected by COVID-19 due to a higher prevalence of underlying health conditions such as uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes. Black Americans are also more likely to die from heart disease.3 Poor access to health care and other longstanding socioeconomic issues also play a role.4
Vaccine is Best Defense for Black Americans with Heart Disease
If you are hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Patel stresses that the vaccines have been studied in Black Americans and proven to be safe. In December 2020, the National Medical Association (NMA), a professional society of Black U.S. doctors committed to health equality and justice, endorsed the FDA’s emergency authorization of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Although you may experience side effects like a fever, fatigue, or injection site pain, these are not cause for concern. More serious adverse reactions are much more rare.
“Personally, I recommend the COVID vaccine for my patients, for my family members, for everyone with cardiovascular disease and those without it,” Patel said. “It is one of the few things people can do, especially people of color, to reduce their risk of bad things happening to themselves or their loved ones.”
Maintaining Your Heart Health During a Pandemic
It’s important for you to continue exercising regularly, taking your medications, attending your scheduled medical appointments, and seeking additional care when needed. If you’re experiencing concerning heart symptoms -- like chest pain, trouble breathing, weakness, or confusion -- call 911 immediately. The risk of exposure to the virus is much lower than the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, according to Dr. Patel. “We are here to help you and make sure that you keep your heart healthy.”