Is the COVID vaccine causing heart problems in a small number of teenagers?

covid vaccine heart problems
Photo via Chiara Cremaschi/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into reports of heart problems cropping up in teens following a COVID vaccine. Instances of myocarditis appear to be rare, but the health agency is advising physicians to keep an eye out for unexpected heart symptoms among teens and young adults. 

The CDC’s investigation has yet to determine if the instances of heart problems are connected to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood normally. The majority of tracked cases “appear to be mild,” according to the CDC report, and thus far “relatively few” cases have cropped up.

The cases that sparked the investigation occurred predominantly in adolescents within four days of either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines. Instances of myocarditis were more common among males than females. Experts are emphasizing that there is no evidence yet to suggest that the heart problems are caused by a COVID vaccine and that this side effect is still mild compared to the potential risks of a COVID infection.

“It may simply be a coincidence that some people are developing myocarditis after vaccination,” Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, told the New York Times. “It’s more likely for something like that to happen by chance, because so many people are getting vaccinated right now.”

As noted by Dr. Liam Yore, former president of the Washington State chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, “the relative risk is a lot in favor of getting the vaccine, especially considering how many doses of the vaccine have been administered.”

Physicians were warned of the potential link between vaccines and myocarditis on May 14. Beginning on May 17, the working group began examining data from the Department of Defense and state health groups. 

Symptoms of myocarditis include fatigue, chest pain, arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. The number of reported instances of myocarditis is not greater than would normally be expected, according to the CDC, but experts felt “information about reports of myocarditis should be communicated to providers” out of an abundance of caution.

Sources: New York Times, Daily Mail

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