In a recent virtual meeting with vaccine advisors, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that there was a “likely link” between rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis and the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
Since April of 2021, there have been nearly 1,200 confirmed cases of myocarditis or pericarditis in people who have received either mRNA vaccine, with the majority of affected individuals being under the age of 30. However, given the relatively small rate of these issues and no clear cause, it’s unclear how concerning this may be.
How Common Is Heart Inflammation After a COVID Vaccine?
As of June 23, 2021, the CDC reports that there have been 321 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered to the United States population. Of those, roughly 300 million doses have been either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine—a combined rate of roughly 12.6 cases per million doses.
Myocarditis and pericarditis are rare heart conditions that result in the inflammation of either the heart muscle or the membrane that surrounds the heart.
“Clinical presentation of myocarditis cases following vaccination has been distinct, occurring most often within one week after dose two, with chest pain as the most common presentation,” says Dr. Grace Lee, the chair of the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical Subgroup. She adds that the CDC is currently gathering more data to fully understand the link between the vaccines and heart inflammation, and if there are any potential long-term complications.
The CDC has reported that there have been 267 cases of either myocarditis or pericarditis after the first round of vaccination, and 827 after the second. Another 132 have been reported in which the number of vaccine doses is not currently known.
Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the Immunization Safety Office at the CDC, says, “This is still a rare event.” He adds that the rare heart inflammation was observed at a higher rate in those who received the Moderna mRNA vaccine, at a rate of 19.8 cases per million. For those who received the Pfizer vaccine, the rate was roughly eight cases per million.
The majority of reported cases were observed in men under 30, according to the CDC, with most cases being categorized as mild. Of the 295 people who have been admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with either myocarditis or pericarditis and later discharged, 79% have fully recovered. Nine people were hospitalized, with two being admitted to intensive care. No deaths have been reported thus far.
“Only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination,”
Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe for Younger Age Groups?
Following the CDC’s statement, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement regarding this extremely rare occurrence.
“Only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination,” the HHS statement read. “Importantly, for the young people who do, most cases are mild, and individuals recover often on their own or with minimal treatment. In addition, we know that myocarditis and pericarditis are much more common if you get COVID-19, and the risks to the heart from COVID-19 infection can be more severe.”
Myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccinations are not a new phenomenon. Back in April 2021, Israel’s Health Ministry announced its plans to investigate 62 cases of heart muscle or membrane inflammation in individuals who had received the Pfizer mRNA vaccine. Importantly, much like in the US, those cases were mild, and no deaths have been reported.
What Is the CDC Doing About the Vaccines?
The CDC is still investigating the link between the mRNA vaccines and heart inflammation to learn more about lasting side effects, potential future health recommendations, and safety planning moving forward.
For now, the CDC “continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older, given the risk of COVID-19 illness and related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death.”
To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, or if you have questions about the risk of myocarditis or pericarditis, talk with your doctor or visit the CDC’s website to learn more.
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