COVID-19 vaccines & PH

Reviewed 14th April 2021 at 9.08am

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and gives you the best protection against coronavirus.

It is given as an injection into your upper arm and is given as 2 doses. You will have the second dose 3 to 12 weeks after having the first dose.

Latest updates

Click here for our reaction to the announcement that people under 30 will be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

The Moderna vaccine is now being used in Wales, with the rest of the UK set to follow. The vaccine was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in January and is 95% effective in preventing the disease. 

A major trial in America has confirmed the safety and efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. A study with 32,000 volunteers found that the vaccine was 79% effective at stopping symptomatic disease and 100% effective at preventing people from falling seriously ill. And there were no safety issues regarding blood clots.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now confirmed that unpaid carers in England can register for their COVID-19 vaccine online if they are the primary carer of someone who is clinically vulnerable. You can book here or call 119.

The UK regulator has confirmed that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, following the news that some countries have halted its use. You can read the full statement, released on 18th March, here

Pulmonary hypertension expert Dr Mark Toshner was the site investigator in Cambridge during the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial. This is his response to the actions of some countries suspending the vaccine.

NHS England has now started to use text messages to invite eligible people to book a COVID-19 vaccine, aiming to speed up the process. Texts will arrive in advance of the standard letter, meaning if the trial is successful the solution could enable the NHS to react faster to changing vaccine supplies and fill appointments quickly.

Be fraud aware: The text message will be from ‘NHSvaccine’ and will contain a link to the NHS.uk website. It will not ask for bank or card details, or personal documentation.

Read the experiences of people with PH who have already received a vaccine here

Please be aware of scams relating to vaccines. Click here for info.

What to do if you have PH but haven’t yet been invited for a vaccine

It is important that you have a COVID-19 vaccine if you have pulmonary hypertension.

If you live in England and are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, you should book your own appointment rather than waiting for an invitation. Book online here.

If you live in Scotland and think you should have had a vaccine but have been missed / haven’t had a letter, you can now use this link to log it for investigation. 

In Northern Ireland, if you are over 16 and clinically extremely vulnerable, and haven’t yet been invited for a vaccine, you should book directly using this link 

If you live in Wales, are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and have not yet been invited for a vaccine, you should contact your local health board. Each board has different instructions – you can find all the information here.

If you care for someone with PH

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now confirmed that unpaid carers in England can register for their COVID-19 vaccine online if they are the primary carer of someone who is clinically vulnerable. You can book here or call 119.

If you are struggling to obtain a vaccine via your GP, we have put together this letter that you may find helpful if you choose to contact them about the issue.

Common questions

What vaccines are available?

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Three vaccines have been approved for use in the UK and are currently being administered. They are the Pfizer/BioNTech,  Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

Although not yet approved by the medicines regulator, data from the UK phase 3 study of the Novavax vaccine has shown 89.3% effectiveness in preventing coronavirus.

When will I receive my vaccine?

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Most people with pulmonary hypertension are classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and therefore fall into group 4 on the priority list set out below.

If you live in England and are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, you should now book your own appointment rather than waiting for an invitation. Book online here.

If you live in Scotland and think you should have had a vaccine but have been missed / haven’t had a letter, you can now use this link to log it for investigation.

In Northern Ireland, if you are over 16 and clinically extremely vulnerable, and haven’t yet been invited for a vaccine, you should book directly using this link

If you live in Wales, are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and have not yet been invited for a vaccine, you should contact your local health board. Each board has different instructions – you can find all the information here.

The priority list below sets out the order for vaccinations. All of those in groups 1-9 have been invited for a vaccine and invites are now being sent as part of the second phase, in the following order: all those aged 40-49 years; all those aged 30-39 years; all those aged 18-29 years.

1. Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers

2. All those 80 years of age and over. Frontline health and social care workers

3. All those 75 years of age and over

4. All those 70 years of age and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals

5. All those 65 years of age and over

6. All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. This group now also includes unpaid carers, who care for someone classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (eligible for vaccination in group 4). It also now includes adults with learning disabilities (those with Downs Syndrome fall into group 4.)

7. All those 60 years of age and over

8. All those 55 years of age and over

9. All those 50 years of age and over

 

 

When can children with PH have a vaccine?

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Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines are only available to adults. However, a number of trials are taking place to test their safety and efficacy in children.

Pfizer says trials of its Covid vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 show 100% efficacy and a strong immune response.

This BBC News article, published 29th March, reports that initial results from trials in 2,260 adolescents in the US also suggest the vaccine is safe with no unusual side-effects.

The drug company says it will submit its data to the US and European authorities for emergency use in 12- to 15-year-olds.

The article reiterates that there are currently no plans for children to be vaccinated in the UK.

Are the vaccines safe?

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Yes. They have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.

Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

So far, thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society have issued this statement about their confidence in the vaccine approval process.

Were the vaccine trials rushed, and does that mean safety has been compromised?

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PH Consultant Dr Mark Toshner, who helped lead the clinical trial for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, told us:

“I hear the word ‘rushed’ a lot but it’s the wrong word as it suggests there might be a degree of changes in our normal safety procedures – and that’s absolutely not the case. I can be unequivocal about that because I was involved in the trial.

In fact, I’ve been astonished by the level of regulatory oversight and the reporting of safety in vaccine trials, and it’s made me think about some of the trials I run in pulmonary hypertension.

For example, the last PH trial I had recruited less than 30 people and there were four ‘serious events’ in that trial. [An ‘event’ is a reaction or adverse experience, and may mean someone being admitted to hospital, even if there is nothing really wrong].

So that’s four in a trial of 30 patients. I would not classically stop my trials for that number, because of how serious PH is and the benefits outweighing the risks.

In the vaccine trials, hundred of thousands of people were being vaccinated and the media were reduced to reporting single events. Trials were completely suspended until those single events were pored over in great detail.

It’s a bit like if you were take the city of Sunderland, and watch every single person in Sunderland for medical emergencies and report every single person admitted to hospital, everyone who had a heart attack, stroke, or cancer – we’d be doing that hundreds of times a day.

So in some ways it’s astonishing that we were reduced to talking about one, two, or a handful of individual cases. And that just shows the safety of vaccines.

Vaccines have an amazing safety record, particularly compared to drug therapies, and I will be first in line to have a vaccine the minute I possibly can.

Do the vaccines interact with PH medication?

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PH Consultant Dr Mark Toshner, who helped lead the clinical trial for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, told us:

“The history of vaccines is that they don’t interact with drugs. It’s as rare as hens’ teeth to find any interaction and that’s because they are not medications like you would classically think of and they are also incredibly strong acting.

Studies have not specifically demonstrated yet the current vaccines and if there are any interactions (often vaccines don’t do those studies) but I expect these will be no different. So, I don’t expect there to be any drug interactions but one of the good things about the set-up in the UK is that we have a very well matured, tertiary response to looking after people with pulmonary hypertension. As you know we are all in specialist centres, so it’s something we will be able to evaluate from the specialist centres and it’s something we will be keeping an eye on.

So, I think I can offer reassurances, but we don’t actually have clear data. However, historically vaccines just don’t interact with therapies, it’s just not a recognised problem.”

Can I choose which vaccine I have?

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No. Any vaccines that are available will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get will be highly effective and protect them from coronavirus.

What should I take with me when I have my vaccination?

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If you are taking medication, please bring a list of these with you to the vaccination centre. Do not bring the medicines themselves.

If you are taking a blood thinner called ‘warfarin’ you will also be going for regular blood tests to monitor the thickness of your blood using a test called INR. The INR test result is a number (for example 2.5). Please make sure you know your latest INR reading and when that was last checked. If you don’t know this, you can get if from your GP surgery. If you are taking warfarin but we don’t know your INR reading it can sometimes mean your vaccination cannot go ahead. The vaccination computers at the centre do not link back to your medical records so staff can’t look up your result on the day.

I feel worried about having a vaccine. What should I do?

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Talk to someone you trust, like your PH specialist, about any concerns you have.

Be careful about where you take your information from. Social media is not a good source of information. We recommend the NHS website and the links listed below.

You will not be forced to have a vaccination.

Useful links

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