By: Joseph Mechak, MD
The COVID-19 vaccines are the most closely monitored immunizations in history. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a program that collects and analyzes side effect data for all immunizations in the United States, including all of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. Through this program, rare side effects like allergic reactions, blood clots, and now myocarditis have been linked to the COVID-19 vaccines. Reports of Myocarditis are of particular interest to us because it is occurring most commonly in our patient population – male teens and young adults.
What to we know:
- What are myocarditis and pericarditis? – Myocarditis is an inflammation of the muscle of the heart. Pericarditis is inflammation of tissue around the heart. These inflammatory conditions can be caused by a viral infection (including COVID-19!), bacterial infection, autoimmune processes, and now, potentially, the mRNA vaccines.
- What are the signs and symptoms of Myocarditis? – Symptoms can vary from case to case but the most common symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, and palpitations (heart fluttering, racing, or beating funny).
- How common is myocarditis after the COVID-19 vaccine? – As of June 21st there have been 616 reported cases and 393 confirmed cases of myocarditis out of the 177 million fully vaccinated people in the United States. Specific outcome data from these cases are not available but the CDC states that “most patients who received care responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better.”
- Who is most at risk? – Per the CDC, cases of myocarditis have been diagnosed:
- Mostly in male adolescents and young adults age 16 years or older
- More often after getting the second dose than after the first dose of one of these two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines
- Typically within several days after COVID-19 vaccination
So… the million dollar question… should I still get my child the COVID-19 vaccines? – YES. The CDC, AAP, and all of us at Potomac Pediatrics still strongly recommend that all children 12 and older get their COVID-19 vaccine ASAP. These organizations (along with several others) put out the following statement which sums up the situation more nicely than I can…
The facts are clear: this is an extremely rare side effect, and only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination. 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.
The vaccines are safe and effective, and they prevent COVID-19 illness. They will help protect you and your family and keep your community safe. We strongly encourage everyone age 12 and older who are eligible to receive the vaccine under Emergency Use Authorization to get vaccinated, as the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any harm. Especially with the troubling Delta variant increasingly circulating, and more readily impacting younger people, the risks of being unvaccinated are far greater than any rare side effects from the vaccines. If you get COVID-19, you could get severely ill and be hospitalized or even die. Even if your infection is mild, you or your child could face long-term symptoms following COVID-19 infection such as neurological problems or diminished lung function. (AAP Joint Statement)
Simply put, just like everything in medicine, the decision to get the vaccine is a risk vs. benefit analysis. The data still very strongly shows that the risks associated with COVID-19 infection are far higher than any risk associated with the vaccines, including myocarditis.
Don’t forget, we now have the Pfizer vaccine available at the office – call to sign-up for an appointment today!
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