There have been reports of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. (Both Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are mRNA vaccines). Most of these reported cases have happened in young men under 30 years old, and after the second dose of the COVID vaccine compared to the first.
While these heart issues might sound very scary, myocarditis and pericarditis can be mild and treatable. In fact, of those who developed the heart conditions after getting vaccinated, at least 79% (or 4 in 5) have made a full recovery.
What exactly are myocarditis and pericarditis?
- Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle.
- Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.
Symptoms of both these heart conditions may include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Heartbeat seems faster or slower than it should be, or is beating in an unusual pattern
If you or a family member start to feel any of the symptoms listed above, please contact your healthcare provider right away. Make sure to let them know if you’ve had the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine within the last week or so.
What is Being Done to Make Sure the mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine is Safe?
Health experts are taking the reports of myocarditis and pericarditis very seriously. On June 23, the CDC’s advisory group (ACIP) met to discuss the latest safety data related to COVID-19 vaccines, including myocarditis and pericarditis after mRNA COVID vaccination. Based on the latest evidence:
- Myocarditis and pericarditis appear to be rare side effects after mRNA COVID vaccines.
- According to CDC, more than 178 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, including over 4.5 million adolescents between 12 and 17 years old.
- The reports of myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination were seen:
- Mostly in young men under 30 years old
- More often after getting the second dose of one of these two COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) than after the first dose
- Typically within a week after COVID-19 vaccination
- Most patients who received care responded well to medicine and rest and have recovered.
The CDC and its group of medical experts concluded that the benefits of COVID vaccination continue to outweigh the risks. The COVID-19 vaccine continues to be recommended for anyone 12 years of age and older.
In the American Academy of Pediatrics’ AAP News, Dr. Stuart Berger, chair of the AAP Section on Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Executive Committee, said “in general, myocarditis is rare. Patients can be asymptomatic and often recover quickly. Most commonly, mild inflammation is related to a viral infection. This includes SARS-CoV-2 and the related multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.”
Getting sick with COVID-19 can cause myocarditis too — among other things.
Preteens, teens and young adults might not be as likely to die from COVID-19 as older adults, but they aren’t naturally immune. Thousands of people under 30 years old in the U.S. have died from the virus. Many more have landed in the hospital or live with long-term symptoms, commonly called “long COVID”. The virus that causes COVID can damage vital organs, including the heart. Study after study has found that the virus can often cause serious or long-term harm to the body, including in those who were healthy before getting COVID.
Some kids and teenagers can also develop Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. MIS-C (and a similar condition in adults called MIS-A) isn’t common, but it can be very dangerous. Vital organs like the heart, lungs, and brain get severely inflamed, putting kids at risk of lifelong health issues or death.
Researchers are still trying to figure out why COVID hits some children harder than others. But preteens and teens seem to be more likely than younger kids to get seriously sick from the virus in general, which is why health experts strongly encourage those 12 years and up to get vaccinated.
Bottom line: Vaccination is still the safer choice.
More Information about COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has a COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) Work Group that reviews the vaccine safety data from the U.S. vaccine monitoring systems on a weekly basis. They are looking for any unexpected health problems that are reported after COVID-19 vaccination, and will continue to make certain that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause myocarditis? (American Academy of Pediatrics)