Scientist in a lab

Coronavirus ProgressReport

COVID-19 developments, August 2020

11 August 2020

A letter from the Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Institute

You may have heard the news that COVID-19 can have a lasting impact on the heart. This is a situation we are following very closely here at the Institute, so I thought you might appreciate a brief update on the latest local and international research on COVID-19 and its potentially damaging effect on the heart.

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.

How far away is a coronavirus vaccine?

[Update 21 Feb 2021: Please visit COVID-19 Vaccine & Heart Disease for the latest update in this area]

I imagine what you most want to know is when there will be a vaccine. The short answer is we don’t know an exact date, but enormous progress has been made towards making a vaccine available as soon as possible. According to the World Health Organisation there are more than 140 vaccines being tested around the world.[1]

Promising vaccine developments have emerged from several research groups, including from Oxford University, University of Queensland and the USA.

The medical and research community remains hopeful a successful vaccine will be developed and can be distributed within 12 to 18 months.

How can COVID-19 affect the heart?

We’ve known since the early days of the virus that it can exacerbate existing heart problems. But there is increasing evidence the virus could potentially also cause new heart problems. These include;

The biggest issue is that although we now know that COVID-19 has significant negative effects on the heart, we don’t properly understand how or why. While not conclusive, case reports of long-term heart problems following COVID-19 infection are beginning to be reported. A recent study showed approximately 10-30% of people hospitalised with the virus show molecular evidence of new cardiac injury.[4]

What coronavirus research is being conducted at the Institute?

Victor Chang Cardiac Research scientists continue to work on three projects directly related to COVID-19.

To read more about these research projects, click here. We’ll keep you up to date with the results as soon as they’re available.

Take care of your heart

One of the most concerning aspects of this pandemic is that some people with severe chest pain or heart attack symptoms are delaying going to hospital. They are concerned about catching the virus in hospital or placing a burden on the healthcare system. But I cannot stress strongly enough that if you have symptoms of a heart attack – that is mainly chest pain, pain going into the neck, jaw or arms or unexplained shortness of breath - then act quickly, do not delay. It’s far more dangerous to postpone a trip to hospital.

The best advice to protect your heart is to take every precaution to minimise the chances of contracting COVID-19. Stay away from crowds. Try and keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people. Wash your hands regularly. If you are not able to socially distance, then wear a mask.

Finally, I'd like to add that one of the most encouraging aspects of this pandemic is the way in which researchers from around the world are collaborating to find cures and treatments for COVID-19. Thanks to the support of generous donors, the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute is proud to be a major part of this research network.

Look after yourselves and each other,

Professor Jason Kovacic
Executive Director & Cardiologist
Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute


1. ABC News: Coronavirus Vaccine Most Promising Candidates

2. University of Queensland: COVID-19 Vaccine Agreement

3. Moderna Biotechnology: Moderna's Work on a COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

4. Journal of the American Medical Association: Association of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) With Myocardial Injury and Mortality

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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