If you haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19, now is a good time to ask your health care provider if the vaccine is appropriate for you. Starting April 19, anyone 16 and older in every state and the District of Columbia is eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Many in the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community were eligible early on because of underlying health conditions. For Marilyn Hanft, of St. Marys, Georgia, getting her first dose in January was an answer to her prayers. A retired intensive care and emergency room registered nurse, Marilyn was diagnosed chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) in 2011.

“Getting vaccinated not only protects yourself, it protects others,” she says.

Alberta Wright of Detroit, Michigan, got vaccinated after her doctors recommended she receive the vaccine because of her pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

“I made the best decision to get vaccinated to keep myself healthy,” she says. “Eventually, with everyone getting vaccinated, it will slow down the spread of the virus.”

For Holly Szmutko of Valparaiso, Indiana (pictured), a COVID-19 vaccine was critical to her care. Because her PAH has progressed quickly since her January 2019 diagnosis, she’s awaiting a double-lung transplant to improve her health and quality of life.

Her care team encouraged her to get vaccinated before the surgery. All donors are tested for COVID-19 prior to transplant. However, a donor could have been exposed to the virus but didn’t test positive.

Holly received her first dose in early February, three weeks before she was listed for a new pair of lungs. Since then, most of her family have been vaccinated too. Holly encourages everyone to get the vaccine, especially the immunocompromised, those with terminal illnesses and seniors.

“Together, we can make a difference, improve our health and protect loved ones,” she says.

“If this vaccine can prevent deaths from COVID or protect you from having a severe case or no case at all, it is completely worth it. If one person can be saved, that is one person who gets to be with their loved ones another day.”

As vaccine availability becomes more widespread, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) encourages the community to return to its normal care routines. Reschedule PH follow-ups, as well as appointments for routine dental and health care.

“Your PH program is open for business,” says PHA Scientific Leadership Council Chair Murali M. Chakinala, M.D., FCCP, of Washington University’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, a PHA-accredited PH Care Center. “It’s safe. Don’t be afraid to go. And don’t neglect your PH care.”