Covid-19 vaccine for people with heart conditions
Published: 19 August 2021
Getting a Covid-19 vaccination is important for people with heart conditions or high blood pressure. We explain how the vaccine works, possible side effects and how to get it.
If you’ve got a heart condition, you’re at greater risk of being seriously ill or dying from Covid-19. One of the best ways to avoid catching the virus is to get a Covid-19 vaccination.
If you’ve had the Covid-19 vaccine, you’re less likely to catch the virus. If you do catch it, you’re a lot less likely to need hospital treatment or die as a result. That’s why we strongly recommend not only people living with heart disease, but all New Zealanders get the vaccine.
There are different types of Covid-19 vaccine. In New Zealand we have the Pfizer vaccine, and the information in this article will focus on that vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is also sometimes called the Comirnaty vaccine – this is the brand name.
Getting the Covid-19 vaccine
The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses. Read more on the Covid 19 website.
Your vaccine will be given by a trained vaccinator, by injection in your upper arm.
Once you’ve had the vaccination, you’ll have to wait 15 minutes before leaving the clinic, just to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
Make sure you’ve booked your appointment for the second dose before you leave.
How can I get the vaccine?
The vaccine is available to anyone aged 12 or over.
You can book an appointment or go to a walk-in or drive through vaccination centre without a booking.
Some GP practices and pharmacies are also providing vaccinations.
The Government’s Covid-19 website has more information about how to book your vaccine.Book a vaccination now
Covid-19 vaccine safety
The Pfizer vaccine is very safe. New Zealand's medicines safety authority Medsafe has assessed and approved the Covid-19 vaccine in the same way it approves other medicines, like the flu vaccine.
Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare, and the person giving your vaccination is trained to manage this if it occurs.
Some people worry that the vaccine might give them Covid-19 or mean they can pass it on to others. This is not true. The Pfizer vaccine does not contain the virus (alive or dead). Instead, the vaccine works by teaching your body to recognise the virus and fight it off.
The vaccine does not affect your DNA and it is gone from your body a few days after you’ve had the injection. It does not contain eggs, preservatives, latex, metals, or any kind of animal product.
Most people will experience a few mild side effects after receiving their vaccinations.
- redness and/or pain at the injection site
- feeling tired
- muscle aches
- joint pain
More serious side effects are very rare. You can read more about them on the Ministry of Health website.
Heart inflammation after Covid-19 vaccine
A very small number of myocarditis and pericarditis cases (inflammation of the heart) have been reported following the Pfizer vaccine.
Recent research suggests the rate of myocarditis that occurred as a result of the vaccine, was approximately three in every 100,000 people vaccinated. Most of these cases have been mild and not required treatment or hospitalisation. The research also shows that you’re more likely to get myocarditis after catching the Covid-19 virus, than you are to get it from the vaccination.
If you experience any symptoms such as chest discomfort , breathlessness or palpitations after your vaccination please seek medical advice.
Blood clots and Covid-19 vaccine
There have been overseas reports of some people experiencing blood clots after getting the Covid-19 vaccine. These reports are not linked to the Pfizer vaccine.
Read more: Medsafe’s website
Is the vaccine effective?
Yes. The Pfizer vaccine works very well, especially once you’ve had both doses.
A UK study, published in August 2021, found that in recent months when Delta has been dominant, the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine after two doses was 88%, with 67% effectiveness after four to five months.
In summary, the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination far outweigh the very small risk.
Who can’t get the vaccine?
Some people may need to speak to their doctor, pharmacist or nurse before having the vaccine. This includes people who:
- have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after any other vaccine injection
- are currently unwell or have a high temperature (over 38°C)
- have an immune system that does not work properly (immunodeficiency)
- are taking medicines that weaken the immune system (such as cancer medicines).
You may still be able to have the vaccine, but there may be things your health professional needs to check first.
If you’re taking a blood thinning medicine (anticoagulant) you’re still safe to have the vaccine, but it’s important to let your vaccinator know in case you bleed more. Do not stop taking your prescribed medication.
Call our Heart Help line to speak with one of our nurses.