COVID-19 Vaccines & Heart Valve Surgery: 10+ Important Facts

Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate, Author & Website Founder

Medical Experts: Patrick McCarthy, MD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Northwestern Medicine, Marc Gillinov, MD, Chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic, and Joanna Chikwe, MD, Chair of Cardiac Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Page last updated: January 4, 2021

As the new COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are now FDA-approved under the emergency use authorization, my inbox is filling up with important questions from patients who have previously undergone heart valve replacement procedures, heart valve repair operations and corrective therapy for other cardiac related diseases including aortic aneurysms.

 

COVID-19 Vaccines & Heart Surgery Stitches

 

Here are examples of patient questions I received about COVID-19 vaccines specific to heart valve surgery and aortic aneurysms:

  • Jean emailed me, “Hello Adam, I had an aortic valve replacement and aortic graft performed three years ago. I am a 55-year old in good health with no other underlying health conditions.  The surgery was done to replace a bicuspid valve and aortic aneurysm.  I have not contracted COVID-19 but I am wondering about the safety of the vaccine as it relates to the heart valve replacement and Dacron graft.  Are you aware of any complications or side effects for heart valve patients to receive a vaccine because of the bioprosthetic valve and/or graft?”
  • Dr. Nestor asked me, “Dear Adam, I have a biological aortic valve replacement.  Do you know if there are any worries or side effects for heart valve patients with the Pfizer immunization for COVID-19? I am about to receive the vaccine and be immunized?”
  • Liz asked me, “Can you comment yet about the COVID-19 vaccine related to those of us with a biological valve. I have aortic cow valve replacement and two annuloplasty repair rings on my other valves.  Would you please gather information and comment? Thanks!”

 

Heart Valve Experts Comment on COVID-19 Vaccines

To educate our community about COVID-19 vaccines, I reached out to three leading cardiac surgeons who specialize in valvular therapy.

 

Dr. Patrick McCarthyDr. Patrick McCarthy

 

Dr. Patrick McCarthy, the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Northwestern Medicine, explained to us, “There are no known complications from the vaccine that would impact the valve and/or the graft. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently being distributed have incredibly high effectiveness (95% effective), and safety profiles. Currently, with over 2 million people in the US vaccinated, the media are playing up one physician who apparently had an allergic reaction that was easily treated. That’s a very safe vaccine, and much safer than the myriad serious complications that can occur in heart patients who contract Covid-19. There are temporary side effects from the vaccine, such as local tenderness, fatigue, headache, and occasionally a low grade fever. But these are manifestations that the vaccine is working and the body is revving up our immune system. There are other nonsense stories circulating on the internet, such as that the vaccine includes a microchip tracker. It’s hard to tell how such ludicrous stories begin, but likely it relates to the tracking and temperature sensor that accompanies each case of vaccine. We don’t want to lose any vaccine during shipping, and they have to be kept cold. Widespread vaccination of nearly all of us is the bright light at the end of this dark tunnel. I’ve had my first shot and will gladly receive my second shot soon.”

 

Dr. Marc GillinovDr. Marc Gillinov

 

Dr. Marc Gillinov, the Chair of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, shared with us, “Based upon what we know now, all those who are eligible should get the vaccine.  There is currently no evidence of any issues or harm caused by the vaccine(s) in those who have had previous cardiac surgery/procedures.”

 

Dr. Joanna ChikweDr. Joanna Chikwe

 

Dr. Joanna Chikwe, the Chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, shared with me, “Current best evidence strongly suggests the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks, especially for patients with a history of heart disease. If you have concerns it is definitely worth discussing them with your primary care or cardiology team.”

 

January 4, 2021 Update: What About COVID-19 Vaccine Use For Patients Who Have Mechanical Heart Valves Or Underwent The MAZE Procedure (for Atrial Fibrillation), Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts (CABG) and/or Got Cardiac Stents?

Shortly after posting this article, we received several questions from patients about other cardiac devices and cardiac procedures.  For example:

  • Tammie at our Facebook page asked me, “Would this also include those of us with a mechanical aortic valve? I keep hearing about the tissue valves but not mechanical.”
  • Shirley posted, “I have had two stents put in. I was going to get the vaccine and now am wondering if I should?”
  • Mary asked, “I had an ablation done for my atrial fibrillation in July 2020. I am wondering if I should have this!!”

To answer these questions, we contacted Dr. McCarthy.

In his response, Dr. McCarthy suggested that his comments provided above also apply to mechanical valves, the MAZE procedure (surgical ablation), CABG and stents.

 

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Facts

To further educate patients about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, here are additional facts to consider:

  • Type of vaccine:  mRNA (learn more about mRNA COVID vaccines)
  • Number of shots: 2 shots, 21 days apart
  • Age: People over the age of 16
  • Shot location: Muscle in the upper arm
  • Side effects: Pain, redness, swelling near the shot location, tiredness, headache, chills
  • Effectiveness: 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of previous infection

 

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Facts

To further educate patients about the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, here are additional facts to consider:

  • Type of vaccine:  mRNA
  • Number of shots: 2 shots, 28 days apart
  • Age: People over the age of 18
  • Shot location: Muscle in the upper arm
  • Side effects: Pain, redness, swelling near the shot location, tiredness, headache, chills
  • Effectiveness: 94.1% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected.

 

Keep Learning About COVID-19 & Heart Valve Disease

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.