Charity targets vaccine centres for opportunistic AF screening campaign


AF Association has launched an opportunistic screening programme to DETECT atrial fibrillation (AF) at COVID-19 vaccination clinics across the UK. The charity has created an online resource hub for healthcare professionals working at vaccine clinics to use to detect AF.

More than 500,000 people across the UK are estimated to have undiagnosed AF—meaning that they are unaware that they are at risk of AF-related stroke.

The charity’s “Know Your Pulse to Know Your Heart Rhythm—it Could Save Your Life” campaign provides information and advice on performing pulse checks and explains why this is important.

Due to social distancing restrictions, many opportunities to detect AF, with pulse checks, in both healthcare and non-healthcare settings have disappeared. Therefore, AF Association believes COVID-19 vaccine centres are an ideal place for opportunistic screening for AF, with digital tools such as mobile single-lead ECG devices, and to encourage people to get into the habit of regular pulse checking.

John Cannon, Lead Medical Advisor to AF Association–East Anglia Support Group, comments: “This is an innovative and opportunistic project screening those having the COVID-19 vaccination. There is a large burden of undetected AF in the community particularly in the over 65s and especially with comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, dementia, depression, coronary heart disease and/or obesity. AF increases the risk of stroke by 500% and heart failure by 300% and if caught early, with a combination of anti-coagulation and rate-controlled therapy, a large number of AF-related strokes, deaths and heart failure could be avoided.

“AF is extraordinarily easy to detect, which I often do in appointments unrelated to cardiac problems. I would urge everyone to be aware of their pulse and ask for help if there is an irregularity.”

Ben Lord, Regional Ambassador for AF Association–East Anglia Support Group, adds: “We are delighted to be leading the UK’s first opportunistic detection event alongside local COVID-19 vaccine clinics being held on Thursday and Friday this week led by volunteers using an AliveCor mobile ECG device where we hope to check the pulses of over 600 over 80s as they come for their second COVID-19 vaccinations. Having lost my Grandad to an AF-related stroke three and a half years ago—an event that I believe could have been avoided—I know only too well how beneficial this innovative scheme shall be for our local population.”

Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder & CEO of the AF Association, says: “Seizing the opportunity to reintroduce our Know Your Pulse to Know Your Heart Rhythm campaign seemed the obvious thing to do during the COVID-19 vaccine delivery programme. It does not delay or hinder the roll out of the vitally important vaccine and yet at the same time we can further potentially save someone from a fatal AF-related stroke with a simple pulse rhythm check using a mobile ECG app, where they simply place two fingers from each hand onto the app. Between use, the mobile ECG device can be sanitised; thus, ensuring no risk to the person from COVID-19.”


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