To date in the United States, more than 165 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including nearly 7 million kids age 12-17. While serious side effects continue to be exceedingly rare, there have been some recent reports of heart issues in teens and young adults after receiving the vaccine. My colleagues and I at the Herma Heart Institute have been following these reports closely and we’ve heard from some concerned parents, so we wanted to provide the following guidance.
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a small number of cases of heart conditions developing following the COVID-19 vaccine. In particular, these kids and young adults experienced inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart (pericarditis) after receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use mRNA technology, while Johnson & Johnson uses what is known as a viral vector).
In general, these cases have been reported:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), to date there have been less than 1,000 suspected cases (out of 165 million people vaccinated — that’s less than 0.0006 percent). In teens age 16-17, there have been less than 100 suspected cases. It’s also important to point out that these are still suspected cases, and after each goes through the testing and review process, the number of confirmed cases is likely to be even lower. All told, for the reported cases, more than 80 percent made a full recovery after rest and anti-inflammatory medication.
You may be asking what causes myocarditis and pericarditis. Most typically it’s caused by a viral or bacterial infection. While generally uncommon, in any given year there are hundreds of thousands of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis worldwide. Oftentimes, the symptoms are so mild a person may not even seek medical attention or know they had the disease. Given the very low rate of cases after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and the increased surveillance, it remains unclear if the inflammation of the heart was caused by the vaccine or an infection unrelated to the vaccine.
While these cases are incredibly rare, they are worth tracking and the CDC is reviewing all available data to learn what — if any — connection there is to the COVID-19 vaccine. As a part of this process, if you or your child experience chest pains, a rapid or pounding heart beat or shortness of breath, contact your doctor.
While we recognize that the potential of a complication from vaccination is scary, currently the known benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any potential side-effects. We at the Herma Heart Institute and Children’s Wisconsin, along with the CDC and AAP, strongly recommend everyone who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine receive it.