5 important tips about COVID-19 vaccines for heart failure, heart transplant patients

As more and more Americans receive their COVID-19 vaccine, heart failure patients and heart transplant recipients may have specific questions about how they should proceed. Can they be vaccinated? If so, what are the potential side effects?

Fortunately for those patients, Erika Lease, MD, has shared some helpful information about this specific topic on the American College of Cardiology’s website.

Lease’s analysis provides a lot of valuable information. These are five key takeaways:

1. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for both heart failure patients and heart transplant recipients.

The International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) and the American Society for Transplantation (AST) both recommend patients seek out a COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccines are “likely” not quite as effective for transplant recipients, Lease wrote, but the risks of a COVID-19 infection are much worse for transplant recipients than any risks associated with the vaccines.

2. Minor side effects may occur.

Transplant recipients were not included in the biggest vaccine trials. However, a smaller study of 187 individuals did find that minor side effects such as injection-site pain (61%), fatigue (38%) and headaches (32%) are all common for transplant recipients after they have been vaccinated. There were “no reported cases of acute rejection, neurological diagnoses or allergic reactions requiring epinephrine,” Lease noted.

The vaccines are “likely” not quite as effective for transplant recipients, Lease wrote, but the risks of a COVID-19 infection are much worse for transplant recipients than any risks associated with the vaccines.

3. Patients should receive a vaccine before transplantation when possible.

“While it is preferred that patients would complete the vaccine series two weeks or more prior to transplantation, transplantation should not be routinely delayed,” Lease wrote. “If patients with heart failure undergo heart transplantation and have only received one vaccine of the series, there is no data regarding optimal timing to receive the second vaccine after transplantation. Similar to post-transplant vaccine timing, it is currently recommended patients receive the second vaccine at least 1 month after transplantation.”

4. Patients should who undergo a heart transplant and have not been vaccinated should try to wait one month before they seek out a vaccine.

This recommendation “allows for routine reduction of immunosuppression after transplantation to hopefully allow for improved efficacy of the vaccine.”

5. Yes, you should still be vaccinated if you have had COVID-19 and recovered.

This is identical to what experts recommend to the general public.

The full document is available here.