Should You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine if You’ve Had a Stroke?

Should a person get the COVID-19 vaccine if they’ve had a stroke? This is a common question many neurology experts are fielding right now. Having a stroke puts you at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms and even dying from COVID-19. The simple answer to the question of whether or not to get the vaccine if you’ve suffered a stroke is, for most people, yes.

[Read: Vaccine Study Volunteers: Taking Their Shot to Beat COVID-19.]

Ever since the first COVID-19 vaccines became available in late December, there has been natural hesitation from some people as to whether or not to get the shot. This hesitancy is understandable, as these vaccines are the first large-scale roll out of a new vaccine technology. What’s important to understand is that these vaccines were studied on tens of thousands of adults from all different genders, races and ages, all around the country and over the course of several months. These new vaccines are incredibly effective. Side effects, allergic responses and adverse events were closely examined in the population studied and were minimal, especially when compared to getting infected with the actual virus.

The most important point to realize is that people with underlying conditions such as stroke and heart disease have a higher chance of developing complications from the virus that causes COVID-19 than from the vaccine itself. This point was strongly emphasized by the scientific leadership of the American Heart Association, who in January 2021 released a statement urging all heart attack and stroke survivors to get the COVID-19 vaccines to keep themselves, their family members and their community healthy and safe.

[READ: COVID-19 Vaccine: Should I Get Vaccinated?]

Understanding the risks and benefits to any medication or therapy is especially important. Here are some essential points to appreciate about the COVID-19 vaccines when considering whether to get the shot:

— The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are different than traditional vaccines (which are generally weakened or inactivated forms of a disease-causing organism) in that they deliver a small genetic code (mRNA) that causes your body to create the harmless spike proteins of the coronavirus. This triggers your immune system to recognize the spike particles and form antibodies so that when it sees it on the actual coronavirus, it’s ready to attack.

— This mRNA vaccine is injected into a muscle (generally your arm) and stays locally in your muscle where your body’s cells create the harmless spike proteins. The mRNA naturally disappears over a short period of time.

— The vaccines appear to be very effective at causing your body to create antibodies and preventing you from developing coronavirus symptoms. From initial reports, they also appear to be quite effective against some of the new strains of the coronavirus appearing around the world.

— When you get the shot, you may feel some side effects. In fact, more than 70% of people reported at least one systemic reaction, especially after the second shot. The most common reactions are fatigue, headache, muscle pain (especially in the area around the shot), body aches and fevers. These side effects are generally temporary and are normal signs that your immune system is turning on. Most of the time these symptoms can be alleviated by over-the-counter anti-fever and anti-inflammatory medications.

— If you’ve had a stroke in the past, these vaccines may reduce your chances of getting the severe form of COVID-19 disease. If you get COVID-19 infection, it can cause your body’s natural inflammation pathways to heighten. This can cause your blood to become thick, and especially in stroke patients, it can lead to even more neurological complications, including new strokes.

At the end of the day, the decision on whether or not to receive a vaccine, or any medical therapy for that matter, is a very personal one, especially for patients who have had a serious condition such as stroke. If you have questions about the coronavirus vaccines or whether you should get one of the vaccines and you’ve had a stroke in the past, consult your doctor and discuss your personal risks and benefits.

[Read: Questions to Ask Your Doctor About the COVID-19 Vaccine.]

We’ve all lived within the era of COVID-19 now for more than a year, and it’s as important as ever to stay extremely vigilant, especially if you’ve had a previous stroke. If you have new stroke symptoms, even in the middle of this pandemic, it’s still important to get to the emergency room immediately to safely get help.

More from U.S. News

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Should You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine if You’ve Had a Stroke? originally appeared on usnews.com

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