Heart disease and stroke medical experts urge public to get COVID-19 vaccinations

DALLAS, Jan. 15, 2021 – As COVID-19 cases continue to soar, today, the scientific leadership of the American Heart Association— the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to a world of longer, healthier lives — urged all eligible individuals to get vaccinated to keep themselves, their family and their community healthy and safe.

To that end, the Association is a founding supporter of the recently announced Ad Council campaign to encourage vaccination against the virus, which will represent one of the largest public education campaigns in history.

The Association’s science leadership says everyone needs to be vaccinated because even one infection can cause an outbreak, and everyone deserves to be protected. Without a COVID-19 vaccine, your health is at risk.

The following presidential commentary reflects the views of the Association and its science leaders:

  • American Heart Association president Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAHA, FAAN,
  • American Heart Association immediate past president, Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA,
  • American Heart Association president elect, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA
  • American Heart Association chief science and medical officer, Mariell Jessup, M.D., FAHA, and
  • American Heart Association chief medical officer for prevention, Eduardo Sanchez, M.D, M.P.H., FAAFP.

“As a science-based organization committed to health equity, we are heartened that COVID-19 vaccines have been approved to protect individuals, their loved ones and their communities from the pandemic. The American Heart Association – which has been carefully tracking COVID-19 and its disproportionately negative effects on older adults; people with underlying medical conditions; and Black, LatinX and American Indian/Alaska Native people – strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated with any approved COVID-19 vaccine as it is available.

In particular, people with cardiovascular risk factors, heart disease, and heart attack and stroke survivors should get vaccinated as soon as possible because they are at much greater risk from the virus than they are from the vaccine.

Some people have expressed concerns about taking the vaccine. However, after review by science and medical experts, the Association is confident the benefits of vaccination far exceed the very small, rare risks. The benefits also far outweigh the risks of COVID-19 and its potentially fatal consequences. Mild side effects from vaccination are common, including pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. While rare, the vaccines can cause a severe allergic reaction, which is why people should be monitored for 10 to 15 minutes after their injection. Other rare issues might be reported as the vaccines are administered to millions.

The Association recommends people who have medical conditions consult with their health care professionals before seeking vaccination. In addition, the Association reiterates the importance of handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks as vaccinations continue, particularly for people at high risk of infection and/or severe COVID-19. These simple precautions remain crucial to protecting people from the virus that causes COVID-19. They also are crucial to getting us all back to normal.

The Association joined many organizations in responding to the pandemic from the outset, with information and guidance to the public, people with heart disease, stroke survivors and people who have cardiovascular risk factors. The Association also has been providing guidance to health care professionals about COVID-19 in people with underlying health conditions and has funded and enhanced capacity for research related to COVID-19. 

The Association believes the scientific integrity and rigor in the development of the two approved vaccines and the integrity and the rigor of the review process have been sound. Both approved vaccines are safe and have demonstrated 95% effectiveness. Trusted scientists and medical experts have worked tirelessly to develop and test these vaccines using the highest standards, and every step of each trial was carefully reviewed by independent experts at a common safety monitoring board and by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The clinical trials for the vaccines, that is, the studies testing the safety and effectiveness with people, have been rigorous and robust. The trials have featured a mix of participants approaching the racial and ethnic demographic profile of the United States. In addition, they have included an overrepresentation of persons 65 years and older than and have included individuals with a mix of underlying health conditions. Again, the medical research that led to the development of, and the clinical trials associated with the already approved and still being investigated vaccines, is sound. As with all pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA, safety monitoring will be ongoing. 

The review and recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, adds to the assurance of safety of the vaccines. The Association supports the phased approach for administering vaccines to people by prioritized categories as recommended by the National Academies of Medicine and modified by the ACIP. 

Individuals should refer to their local and state health departments for specific information about when and where they can get vaccinated. We urge everyone to get vaccinated.”

The American Heart Association is deeply concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. The Association’s priority is the health and well-being of all individuals and their families today and in the future, in every community, everywhere.

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The American Heart Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For Media Inquiries:  214-706-1173

Suzanne Grant: 214-706-1948; Suzanne.Grant@heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org

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