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Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause myocarditis?

Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP

Answer

​​​​​You may have heard news about a small number o​f adolescents and young adults who experienced mild cases of heart inflammation (called myocarditis) after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Most recovered on their own or with minimal treatment and rest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been studying these rare 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. 

Based on the latest evidence, myocarditis appears to be an extremely rare side effect—one that pales in comparison to the potential risks of COVID-19 infection. The CDC, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and other major medical groups, continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for people 12 years and older.

What is myocarditis?

Myocarditis is 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 feelings of abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, or chest pain.

The recent reports of myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccination were seen:

  • mostly in older teens 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

Especially with the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 now circulating, the risks of being unvaccinated and becoming ill with COVID-19 are far greater than any rare side effects from the vaccines. 

Thousands of children have been hospitalized, and hundreds have died after being infected with COVID-19. Some children who have recovered still experience lingering symptoms. In fact, getting infected with COVID-19 itself is much more likely to cause myocarditis than the vaccine.

Remember

Since December 2020, nearly a third of a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States. 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.

COVID-19 The vaccines are currently available for anyone 12 years of age and older​. If you ha​​ve any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to talk with your pediatrician.

More infor​​mation

Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP

​Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP, is Professor and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California. She is also the Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity at the Stanford School of Medicine. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic she has over 10 clinical, epidemiology and laboratory-based studies in this area and is involved in epidemiologic modeling at the university, state and national level. She is the Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Dr. Maldonado has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals and is co-editor of the textbooks "Remington and Klein Infectious Diseases of the Fetus and Newborn Infant" and "Report of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases (Red Book)."

Last Updated
6/24/2021
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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