COVID-19 vaccines & PH

Reviewed 26th May 2023

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

Update, April 2023: Spring booster vaccinations are now available for everyone over 75 and those deemed to be at the highest risk from COVID-19, including people who are immunosuppressed and older adults in care homes. Find out more here.

Update, April 2023: Children aged six months to four years, who are deemed to be in high-risk groups, will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination for the first time. This includes infants with medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, heart problems and compromised immune systems. The jabs will start being given from mid-June in England. The other nations are yet to announce rollout dates. It follows a recommendation by the government’s vaccine advisers.

Update, March 2023: A spring booster jab will be offered to people at most risk of serious illness from COVID-19 – including everyone over 75, care home residents, and those classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’. Having PH alone does not make you eligible for the booster, but if you have had an organ transplant, or you have another condition that makes you immunosuppressed, you should be eligible. Please check with your GP.

Update, January 2023: Research has found that vulnerable people who have had a third vaccine, or a booster, have a significant increase in antibodies and protection against COVID-19. This means they have the same protection against the disease as healthy people. Read more here.

Common questions about COVID-19 vaccines and PH

Are people with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) at more risk of clotting side effects from some of the vaccines?

There is no evidence that people with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) are at greater risk of developing clots from the AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines.

Dr Mark Toshner, PH consultant at Royal Papworth Hospital and local investigator in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial, said: “This side effect isn’t like a ‘normal’ clot. The body is generating an antibody that, by coincidence, recognises a particular protein involved in the clotting factors around platelets [cells in your in blood, which help stop bleeding].

That is not a classic cause of clots in people with CTEPH and we haven’t seen any patients with CTEPH who have had this particular complication. We don’t think it is a particular risk factor for them.
We can be confident that the rare risk of clotting with the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines does not appear any more relevant to our PH patients.”

Can children affected by PH receive a vaccine?

Vaccines are now available for all children aged 5-15. Find out more, including which they will receive, here.

There are answers to frequently asked questions about children and vaccination on this BBC news page

Are the vaccines safe?

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?

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.”

Do the vaccines interact with PH medication?

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?

No, you cannot usually choose which vaccine you have. 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?

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.

Should I have a vaccine if I have had a transplant, or if I am on the waiting list?

Please click here for the latest advice from NHS Blood & Transplant.

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

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

Click here for more information about the vaccine rollout process. This page is regularly updated by the BBC.

Click here for more information on the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines (known as ‘RNA vaccines’)

Click here to learn more about the differences between the vaccines.