You may have heard news about a small number of teens and young adults who experienced a heart inflammation (called myocarditis) after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Most felt better after getting anti-inflammatory medicines and rest.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is studying these cases to see if there is any link to the vaccine. This kind of ongoing monitoring is standard with all new vaccines to make sure they are safe. Fortunately, the number of myocarditis cases reported in young people after vaccination doesn't appear any larger than what's normally seen in people this age without the vaccine.
However, we want to make sure that these cases aren't anything more than coincidence. If the reported myocarditis is related to COVID-19 vaccines, it's most likely a rare side effect since the vaccines have been given since December 2020 to at least 4 million adolescents between ages 16 and 18; the condition has not been reported to be associated with vaccination during that time.
What is myocarditis?
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle. It happens when the body's immune system reacts to an infection or some other trigger. In more than half of cases, no cause is identified. Symptoms can include
abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, or
chest pain. The recent reports of myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccination were seen:
mostly in teens age 16 or older and young adults,
more often in males than females,
more often following dose 2 than dose 1, and
typically within 4 days after vaccination.
What we do know: COVID-19 vaccines save lives
While we don't yet know what is causing these cases of heart inflammation, we do know that children can and do become infected with COVID and some get seriously ill. Thousands of children have been hospitalized, and hundreds have died after being infected with the virus. Some children who have recovered continue to experience lingering symptoms. In fact, COVID-19 itself is known to cause myocarditis.
Since December 2020, almost a third of a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the CDC, continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for people 12 years and older. They are proven to be very effective at preventing COVID-19 and are truly life-saving. If you or your children are eligible for the vaccine, I encourage you to plan to get it as soon as possible.
The potentially rare side effect of myocarditis pales in comparison to the potential risks of COVID-19. The vaccines
currently available for anyone age 12 and older. If you have any concerns, don't hesitate to talk with your pediatrician.