Heart Disease on the COVID-19 Vaccine Priority List

by | Jan 18, 2021 | Disability Law | 0 comments

Heart Disease on the Covid-19 Vaccine Priority List

by Linda Noorafkan, Employment and Disability Lawyer

COVID-19 isn’t the world’s leading cause of death. It’s heart disease.[1]

Heart disease is such a risky condition that, in November 2020, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization put Canadians with heart disease on the COVID-19 vaccine priority list.

Heart disease: #1 killer for decades

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization ranked heart disease as the top cause of death in the world in 2019. Indeed, heart disease has been the top cause of death in the world for the last 20 years.[5]

Dangers of heart disease during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians with heart disease have suffered worsened symptoms.[2] This is concerning, as Canadians with heart disease are at high risk of serious illness and death due to:

  • COVID-19 potentially causing heart attacks or congestive heart failure; and
  • COVID-19 causing inflammation of the heart muscle, which is already impacted by pre-existing heart disease.[3]

But, just because Canadians with heart disease are on the vaccine priority list, it doesn’t mean that they will get the vaccine as soon as it rolls out. There are only 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the first batch, and millions of Canadians are on the priority list.[4] That could mean that all Canadians with heart disease may not get the vaccine as soon as they’d hope.

What can employees and employers do to reduce the risks?


If you’re an employee with heart disease, or if you live with someone that has heart disease, you’re likely trying to limit your exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible. But what if you can’t because of your job? Here are some suggestions to keep you and your family safe:

  • Infectious Disease Emergency Leave: If you are not feeling well, you have job protection through various leaves; and
  • Accommodations: If you can’t completely work from home, you can ask your employer for job accommodations to limit your exposure to COVID-19.


If you’re an employer and one of your employees (or an employee’s family member) suffers from heart disease, you should try to ensure that you are limiting the employee’s exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible. Here are some strategies you can implement:

  • Work from home: As much as possible, employees should work from home; or
  • Social distancing policies in the workplace: If employees must go into the workplace, implement policies that keep employees distanced at all times.

If you’re concerned about how your employment could be impacted by heart disease, contact the experienced employment and long-term disability lawyers at Ertl Lawyers to see how we can help.

This blog is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or create a lawyer-client relationship.


[1] WebMD LLC, “Heart Disease Is World’s No. 1 Killer” (10 Dec 2020), online: <https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20201209/heart-disease-is-worlds-no-1-killer>.
[2] CTV News, “Those with heart disease feel highly vulnerable during pandemic: Virtual care providing needed support” (12 Nov 2020), online <https://london.ctvnews.ca/those-with-heart-disease-feel-highly-vulnerable-during-pandemic-virtual-care-providing-needed-support-1.5185790>.
[3] Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School, “How does cardiovascular disease increase the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19?” (2 Apr 2020), online <https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-does-cardiovascular-disease-increase-the-risk-of-severe-illness-and-death-from-covid-19-2020040219401>.
[4] CBC/Radio-Canada, “Vaccine priority list must be refined to match available doses: Tam Social Sharing” (2 Dec 2020), online <https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/vaccine-pirority-list-tam-1.5825796>.
[5] CTV News, “7 of top 10 killers pre-COVID-19 were non-communicable diseases: WHO” (9 Dec 2020), online: <https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/7-of-top-10-killers-pre-covid-19-were-non-communicable-diseases-who-1.5223367>.
David Ertl Lawyer
About David Ertl
David Ertl, LL.B, has practiced employment and disability law for over 20 years. He is also a certified workplace investigator, former adjunct professor, and has written extensively in the areas of employment law, disability insurance, and tribunal practice and procedure.


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