COVID-19 vaccines & PH

Reviewed 26th January 2021 at 08.08am

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.

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

What vaccines are available?

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

The Moderna vaccine has also been approved and doses are due to arrive in the spring.

When will I receive my vaccine?

Most people with pulmonary hypertension are classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and therefore fall into group 4 on the priority list set out below. Those in group 4 in England have started to be offered the first part of the vaccine but different areas of the country are operating at different speeds so please don’t worry if you haven’t had your appointment yet.

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)

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

You can read the full advice document here

You will be contacted when it is your turn to have the vaccine.

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, and I will be first in line to have a vaccine the minute I possibly can.

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.”

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. Unless you work as a carer, healthcare or social worker, or are over 75, you will be fourth on the priority list to receive a vaccine. That means thousands of people will receive it first, so you have some time to read up and learn more if you wish.

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

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

Click here to watch, listen to or read our first interview with PH Consultant Dr Mark Toshner, who helped lead the clinical trial for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – conducted at the end of November 2020.

Click here to watch, listen to or read our second interview with PH Consultant Dr Mark Toshner, who helped lead the clinical trial for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine -conducted on 6th December 2020.

Last medically reviewed: January, 2021 • Due for review: January, 2024

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