Female scientist in a laboratory

Cardiologist answers your questions around Australian COVID-19 Vaccines

Coronavirus, Heart Health, and Vaccinations

July 2021 saw a new wave of COVID cases across NSW with many heart patients and supporters reaching out to us. Continuing our COVID-19 and Heart Disease series, Executive Director and clinical cardiologist Professor Jason Kovacic, addresses some vaccine concerns, such as their potential side effects, and whether those with heart or cardiovascular disease should still get vaccinated.

13 July 2021

Update 25 Nov 2021: Information from this article was accurate at the time of publishing and reflected the rules/advice announced by governing bodies at that time.

Video Transcript

Professor Jason Kovacic: I want to talk to you today about COVID-19 and Australia's vaccine rollout and some really important issues that relate to the heart, COVID-19, and vaccination.

Sydney's lockdown really serves to reinforce some really important issues related to COVID-19, these emerging strains and this Delta variant, and the need for vaccination.

If you have heart disease or cardiovascular disease should you get vaccinated against COVID-19?

The answer is absolutely - yes. If you've got heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or indeed any other significant disease, it's really important to get vaccinated because you are more likely to suffer from side effects and have complications from COVID-19.

So, absolutely, if you've got heart disease or any other disease, you should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Should you be worried about the risk of blood clots from the Astra Zeneca vaccine?

The risk of blood clots from the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is extremely, extremely low. It does happen. It's well reported. It's definitely a side effect, but it's extremely rare.

We strongly advocate that if you fall into the designated categories of people who are eligible for the different types of vaccine, Pfizer versus AstraZeneca based on the ages, that you do proceed and get vaccinated.

If you're worried about this, you can absolutely have a discussion with your general practitioner, who'll be able to advise you further on whether to go ahead.

But the general message is:

These vaccines save lives, and for us to open up as a community, we need to get the community vaccinated.

Can the Pfizer or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines cause specific heart complications?

Yes, but about 99.999% of people will not have heart complications relating to COVID-19 vaccines. These complications are super rare and they are heart problems called myocarditis and pericarditis.

And what that means is, just fancy medical words for, inflammation of the heart muscle or inflammation of the lining around the heart muscle.

Now, these complications have been reported in just a handful of people around the world, and thankfully to the best of my knowledge, all of them have recovered uneventfully.

Which vaccines are more likely to cause side effects?

Well, we do know the AstraZeneca vaccine is slightly more likely to cause blood clots, but that's been managed by prescribing which age groups can and can't have that vaccine. At the end of the day, everything we do in medicine has a very small side effect rate, and really the path out of this COVID-19 problem is vaccination of the population.

What is Long COVID and should we be worried about it?

Long COVID is a syndrome that arises after infection with COVID-19.

It involves features like tiredness, fatigue, shortness of breath, chronic aches and pains, lack of energy, lots of sleeping.

Long COVID has become quite an issue in countries where they have seen a lot of COVID-19 infection, such as the United Kingdom and America.

We have certainly seen some cases of this in Australia, and I think if we can't get on top of the vaccination program, this will be something we have to manage.

So, what's the answer to Long COVID? The answer is let's avoid getting COVID in the first place, and the way to do that is vaccination.

Professor Jason Kovacic getting vaccinated

Professor Kovacic, are you vaccinated?

Sure, I am. I've had both doses. I'm fully vaccinated against COVID-19; it was a month ago already.

We're told that very soon there'll be a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine arriving weekly.

Now it's over to us, the people, to roll up our sleeves and get vaccinated. Really the only way out of this cycle of lockdown, hotel quarantine, border closures, travel restrictions is vaccination of us all.

So I urge you to strongly consider vaccination, and certainly us at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and our staff are doing that very actively at the moment. Thank you very much.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years