What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?
COVID-19 is a virus that can affect your respiratory system (nose, throat, lungs) and heart. It can lead to new or increased heart arrhythmias, pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.
Are people with CHD at an increased risk?
Anyone could develop serious or severe illness from COVID-19, but those with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems are at greater risk.
There is limited evidence to draw on because COVID-19 is still a relatively new virus and new information is regularly released. However, based on experience with other viral illnesses, patients with lung and heart disease (including congenital and childhood-onset heart disease) are at increased risk of becoming sick if infected with COVID-19.
You may be at higher risk if you have:
- single ventricles or a Fontan circulation
- chronic cyanosis (oxygen saturations <85%)
- heart failure or cardiomyopathy requiring medication
- pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs)
- heart transplants
- defects requiring medication
- co-existing conditions (such as liver, kidney or chronic lung disease)
- reduced immunity (including Down Syndrome, DiGeorge Syndrome and asplenia).
Should people impacted by CHD get the COVID-19 vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people with CHD and their carers/families but the type of vaccine and timing should be individualised according to patient risk factors, community transmission rates and vaccination supply. We would strongly recommend that before seeking a COVID-19 vaccination that you consult with your cardiologist as to the type of vaccination which would best suit your individual needs.
The major risks caused by the complications associated with contracting COVID will be higher than risks involving vaccination once borders open and/or if community transmission rates begin to climb. Currently, for people living with congenital heart disease who are considered at high risk for COVID-associated complications, we recommend vaccination as soon as accessible. People who are not high risk should be vaccinated in accordance with local guidelines for the general community.
The Government recently approved the Pfizer vaccine for children 12-16 years. The cardiologists at The Heart Centre for Children, SCHN strongly recommend that all children be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. This includes children with heart conditions. For further and specific guidance, please visit the Sydney Heart Centre for Children’s website. Please consult your cardiologist to discuss your specific circumstances.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred in adults aged under 60 years.
In people 60 years and over, ATAGI continue to advise that the benefit of vaccination with AstraZeneca COVID vaccine outweighs the risks associated with vaccination. It is also advised that if you are aged between 50 and 60 years and have had your first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine that you should have your second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as the risk is greatly reduced for the second dose.
Current data suggest that there is a small risk for thrombotic thrombocytopenia (blood clot disorder) associated with the Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. Given the rarity of these events and the risk associated with community transmission of COVID-19 infection, the risk benefit is heavily weighted toward the use of these vaccines.
Recent reports regarding the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer) and subsequent development of Myocarditis and Pericarditis have prompted the ATAGI to release the following guidance. Developed jointly by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ), the recommendation is for certain groups (severe CHD, transplant etc) to consult with their cardiologist before receiving these vaccinations. Click here to read the full report.
When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Find out when you will be able to get your vaccine: COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker
Check the Australian Government’s website for the latest news, updates and answers to common vaccine questions: COVID-19 Vaccination in Australia
Please consult with your cardiologist before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Where can I get the latest COVID-19 news?
The COVID-19 situation is changing all the time. Restrictions and guidance can be different in each state and territory.
Follow your government’s website for more information:
The Australian Government website contains the latest news and updates.
How can I reduce my (or my child’s) risk of catching the virus?
To protect yourself against COVID-19:
- Maintain good hygiene
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch frequently
- Avoid sharing items such as cups and towels
- Practise physical distancing
- Avoid crowds and follow recommendations like limits on the size of private gatherings in homes
- Avoid physical greetings like handshakes, hugs and kisses
- Use extra care if you are using public transport (you may decide you want to wear a mask)
- Stay at home if there is an outbreak in your area.
You may also want to develop a COVID-19 Action Plan.
Reminder: Continue to go to your medical appointments. If you are worried about going to the clinic, talk to your doctor or health service about telehealth or other options.
Tips to help with physical distancing
The more space there is between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread.
These tips can help with physical distancing:
- Think about getting extra supplies of your regular medications and/or equipment
- Stock up on supplies that will keep you and your family healthy, including healthy food
- Establish ways to communicate regularly with family and friends
- Create a COVID-19 Action Plan
Check the guidance from the Australian Government regularly so that you are following all the current recommendations.
What do I do if someone in my household develops symptoms?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
If someone in your household is experiencing these symptoms:
- Stay home and isolate
- Arrange a test – call or email your doctor or cardiologist to ask about the symptoms and receive advice about getting a test
- You may be asked to attend a respiratory clinic for testing – use this tool to find a respiratory clinic.
Is it an emergency? If the symptoms are severe, you should seek urgent medical attention. If possible, call ahead so that the hospital or medical facility can prepare.
Tips to help families cope with extra stress
It is natural to feel stressed and worried about COVID-19. These feelings can be stronger if you or one of your family members has CHD.
This fact sheet contains helpful tips: Coping with stress and worry during COVID-19
Is your child struggling with stress and worry? This fact sheet can help you navigate this: COVID-19 Stress and Children with CHD
Other useful resources