As eligibility expands, doctors help patients overcome anxiety about vaccine

The next group of people in California who will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be adults with various health conditions such as chronic heart disease and those with disabilities.

But as many doctors are finding out, not everyone in this group is ready to get the vaccine.

This past year has been nerve-racking for heart-failure patient Reggie Allen.

"I knew that if I got COVID. I would be in serious trouble," he said.

Before the pandemic, the Loma Linda resident needed a device to keep his heart beating and medications to keep it in check.

"My lung functions are basically 50% of what a normal 75-year-old male would be," he said.

Cardiologist Dr. Purvi Purwani at Loma Linda University Health says managing her patients' stress about the vaccine is a big part of her job.

"For the cardiovascular patients, there's a lot of anxiety in the community," she said. "In patients with cardiovascular disease, anxiety can provoke a lot of symptoms because it can lead to chest pain and chest tightness because of anxiety."

Beginning March 15, people with serious health conditions and disabilities can get the vaccine if their doctors deem them eligible. The list also includes people with cancer, kidney disease, Down syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.

The biggest concern? Potential side effects.

But Parwani reminds her patients how much worse they would be if they got infected.

"These side effects are similar to what one will get after the flu vaccine and typically resolves at 72 hours," she said.

If you have questions about medications you're taking and the vaccine, talk to your physician.

"If you are on blood thinners, make sure that you have a discussion with your doctor," Parwani said. "But so far, continuing all the blood thinners is advice that we give to our patients."

"I would have been the first one to take the vaccine," Allen said.

He received both his doses.

As for side effects, Allen didn't have any.

All he felt was relief.

"It's been it's as good as it could possibly be," he said.
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