An illustration of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles next to a diseased looking heart, to represent cardiovascular complications after COVID-19
Credit: Dr_Microbe/Getty Images

In a study including data from almost two million individuals, COVID-19 vaccination seemed to have a protective effect against heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular problems linked to infection with SARS-CoV-2.

Research shows that even a mild case of COVID-19 can result in cardiovascular complications, often linked to abnormal blood clotting and inflammation occurring as a result of the infection. These adverse effects can occur for some time after the infection has passed.

For example, a study published last year showed individuals who were infected with COVID-19 had a 52% increased risk for stroke and a 72% increase in risk for heart failure in the year after infection vs uninfected controls.

However, the impact of vaccination status on these cardiovascular risks has not been widely studied. This led to the current research project, led by Girish N. Nadkarni, Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine at Icahn Mount Sinai, being set up.

The researchers used the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) database for this study, the results of which will be presented in a poster session in New Orleans, LA, at the American College of Cardiology’s 72nd Annual Scientific Session Together With World Heart Federation’s World Congress of Cardiology. N3C is the largest U.S.-based comprehensive database on COVID-19 containing secure and de-identified clinical data for research purposes.

Overall, 1,934,294 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 were included in the study. Of these, 217,843 received mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or viral vector vaccines (Johnson & Johnson).

The team found that even partial vaccination had a protective effect against major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) in COVID-19 patients, with full vaccination reducing the risk of MACE by 41% and partial vaccination by 24% over more than 150 days of follow-up time after infection.

“We sought to clarify the impact of previous vaccination on cardiovascular events among people who develop COVID-19 and found that, particularly among those with comorbidities, such as previous MACE, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, liver disease, and obesity, there is an association with a lower risk of complications,” said Nadkarni in a press statement.

“While we cannot attribute causality, it is supportive evidence that vaccination may have beneficial effects on a variety of post-COVID-19 complications.”

These results confirm those of Korean researchers published in JAMA last year that also showed a reduction in cardiovascular risk after COVID-19 linked to vaccination.

“To our surprise, even partial vaccination was associated with lower risk of adverse cardiovascular events,” said first author, Joy Jiang, an MD/PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Nadkarni. “Given the magnitude of SARS-CoV-2 infection worldwide, we hope our findings could help improve vaccination rates, especially in individuals with coexisting conditions.”

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