AVAC Member Spotlight: WomenHeart 

Millions of Americans are living with or at risk of heart disease. For many, this chronic health condition puts them at risk for other illnesses, such as the flu, and can make serious complications more common (as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19). For example, adults with heart disease are at higher risk for suffering a heart attack after experiencing the flu. That’s why it is important for adults with heart disease to stay up to date on all recommended vaccines—especially influenza, pneumococcal, Tdap, and shingles.

WomenHeart, the only national organization solely devoted to supporting women living with and at risk of heart disease, understands the importance of ensuring that adults with chronic health conditions have access to recommended vaccines. WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease was founded in 1999 by three women who had heart attacks in their 40s. They created the organization after experiencing firsthand the obstacles women can face when suffering from heart disease, including misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment, and social isolation. More than 20 years later, WomenHeart has successfully formed a national network of support groups for women heart patients in more than 35 states, trained nearly 1,000 women heart disease survivors on how to educate communities and policymakers about heart disease, and continues to advocate at the federal level for policies that support women living with and at risk of heart disease.”

Some of WomenHeart’s education efforts have focused specifically on ensuring women with heart disease understand the importance of immunization. They led a Facebook Live discussion between Dr. Gina Lundberg, the Clinical Director of Emory Women’s Heart Clinic, and WomenHeart Champion Barbara Fleeman on why women with heart disease should get their flu shot. In addition, they published an Advocacy in Action blog highlighting how some women with heart disease are not aware that they are at an increased risk of diseases like pneumococcal and sometime choose not to receive CDC-recommended vaccines because of this lack of knowledge.

The Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC) is excited to welcome WomenHeart to the coalition. Vaccines are critical for adults with chronic conditions and AVAC will benefit from having the leading voice for the 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease contribute to our discussions of how to increase access to and utilization of vaccines.