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What People With Pulmonary Hypertension Should Know About Getting a Second COVID-19 Booster Shot

Posted on July 21, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Robert Hurd, M.D.
Article written by
Manuel Penton, M.D.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved a second COVID-19 booster shot of the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for people over 50 years old and those who are immunocompromised.
  • Recent studies found that most people who were immunocompromised had a strong immune response to mRNA vaccines for COVID-19.
  • The Pulmonary Hypertension Association advises individuals with pulmonary hypertension to talk with their health care providers about whether to receive vaccinations to protect against COVID-19.

The CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have authorized and recommended a second COVID-19 booster shot for people 50 and over and those with immunocompromising conditions.

The Pulmonary Hypertension Association supports recommendations from the CDC on vaccinations and recommends that people with pulmonary hypertension (PH) speak with their doctors about whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The New Recommendations

Some important details about these recommendations include the following:

  • This booster is for people who received their first booster at least four months ago.
  • This fourth shot would be either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, not the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • Even if you were previously vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it is now recommended that this next dose be a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine only.
  • For those who are immunocompromised and received a three-dose primary vaccination followed by an initial booster, this additional booster counts as a fifth shot.

How Booster Shots Can Protect People With Pulmonary Hypertension

If you already had your first booster shot, you may be wondering what experts say about whether additional boosters are effective for people with pulmonary hypertension (PH). The Pulmonary Hypertension Association advises individuals diagnosed with PH to speak with their providers about whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The CDC’s list of underlying medical conditions explicitly lists PH among the conditions that put people at higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about your eligibility for an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“I’ve had both vaccinations plus boosters,” wrote one myPHteam member. Another said, “We get our second booster on Monday and I hope to stay safe!”

Why Booster Shots Matter

Research indicates that antibody levels are likely to decrease over time, so getting booster doses at recommended intervals is necessary — even for vaccinated people who made antibodies after their initial shots.

Simply making antibodies does not always translate to complete immunity from COVID-19 infection. The findings from recent studies, however, are promising. In one study of immunocompromised people with cancer, researchers tested levels of antibodies (proteins the immune system makes to help destroy a target). In this case, the antibodies were to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), made in response to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

On average, antibodies against the coronavirus were identified after the second vaccine dose in about 90 percent of the study’s 515 participants. These results are considered a good sign that vaccines using mRNA — which include those by Moderna and Pfizer — for COVID-19 can trigger strong responses, even in people with compromised immune systems. It’s evidence that vaccines can protect people at higher risk of severe infections.

A study of 261 people with either pulmonary arterial hypertension or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension — two types of PH — found that the vaccinations were safe for study participants. The study authors wrote, “Due to the high risk of death associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection in PAH/CTEPH patients, COVID-19 vaccination in this group should be a high priority.”

According to the CDC, getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself and slow the spread of the virus. If you are unvaccinated because you had an immunodeficiency or autoimmune disease, were being treated for cancer, or are an organ transplant recipient, this new research should give you the confidence to speak with your health care provider about when a COVID-19 vaccine would be right for you.

Find Your Team

On myPHteam, the social support network for people with PH and their loved ones, more than 46,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand.

Are you considering getting a second booster shot? Have you discussed any concerns with your health care provider? Share your insights in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Robert Hurd, M.D. is a professor of endocrinology and health care ethics at Xavier University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Manuel Penton, M.D. is a medical editor at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about him here.

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