Heart failure patients who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 have a three times higher risk of death if they get the disease than those who are fully vaccinated and have received one booster, new research shows.
The findings are crucial because many heart failure patients are reluctant to get COVID-19 shots due to concerns about the possibility of inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis).
While myocarditis is a rare side effect of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is a more common complication of COVID-19, the study authors noted.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 7,000 heart failure patients (not including those with a heart transplant or a left ventricular assist device) who had office visits, emergency department visits or hospitalizations at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City between Jan. 1, 2021, and Jan. 24, 2022.
Of those patients, 31% were fully vaccinated with two doses, nearly 15% were fully vaccinated and had also received one booster (recommended at that time), 9% were partially vaccinated with only one dose, and 45% were unvaccinated - about double the rate of unvaccinated adults in the general New York City population.
Compared to fully vaccinated/boosted patients, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated patients were 15% more likely to be hospitalized if infected with the coronavirus, nearly two times more likely to end up in intensive care and nearly three times more likely to die.
The study was published online June 9 in the Journal of Cardiac Failure.
"I launched this study because our heart failure patients often express fear of getting the COVID-19 vaccine after hearing reports of vaccine-related myocarditis, which would cause another cardiac setback for them," said study author Dr. Anuradha Lala, director of heart failure research at the Icahn School of Medicine, in New York City.
"Until now, it has been difficult to explain to these patients how the cardiovascular benefits of vaccination substantially outweigh the risks of complications to them, because we didn't have concrete evidence to show the substantial risks of being unvaccinated," Lala added.
"Having specific data showing patients with heart failure who don't have their full vaccine series are at a much higher risk of death, intensive care unit (ICU) admission and general hospitalization - even after accounting for factors that might be related to an individual's decision to become vaccinated - is helpful," Lala explained in a Mount Sinai news release.
"I have used these results to help educate reluctant patients and in many cases this has been effective in encouraging them and getting them to follow through with full vaccination. The hope is that cardiologists will use these results as a tool to help their patients and improve their chances of survival," she concluded.
For more on COVID-19 and the heart, go to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCE: Mount Sinai Health System, news release, June 9, 2022