Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Linked to Heart Problems Like Myocarditis and Pericarditis in Young People?

Recently, the CDC said it is looking into a few reports of heart problems in young people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

So far, they found that the rates were not any higher among people who had been vaccinated – so the COVID-19 vaccine is probably a coincidence, not a cause.

But we know that know parents may still have questions.

Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief Juan C. Salazar, MD, MPH, shares answers.

 

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 Why is the CDC investigating heart problems as part of COVID-19 vaccine safety?

A small number of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported in vaccinated teens and young people in Europe and the U.S. Most have been mild, and there are more reports in males than females. Most cases were reported within four or five days after a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

This may not have anything to do with the COVID-19 vaccine: These same heart conditions also occur in young people who are not vaccinated, and at similar rates. If there is a connection to the vaccine, it is likely to be very rare.

To learn more, the CDC decided to investigate. This process is a great example of how the vaccine safety monitoring system works.

> Related: What Parents Should Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 12 and Up

Teenager rolls up shirt sleeve to show band-aid where he received the COVID-19 vaccine

How does the vaccine safety monitoring system work?

Everyone needs to go to the doctor at times, whether or not they’re vaccinated. The CDC and FDA encourage vaccinated patients and their doctors to report many medical events through the vaccine safety system, so they can follow up on the health of individuals who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. This gives them the chance to check for any possible connections between various health issues that come up and the vaccine itself. Most of the time, it’s just a coincidence.

It’s reassuring to know that even after hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the U.S., the CDC and FDA continue to look carefully at even very rare health issues to make sure that the vaccine is safe.

> Related: What Do New Mask Requirements Mean for Kids?

What are myocarditis and pericarditis?

Both conditions affect how the heart functions. Myocarditis is an inflammation of a heart muscle called the myocardium. Pericarditis is a swelling and irritation of a heart membrane called the pericardium.

For young people, these conditions are often the result of a viral infection, including a common summer infection called coxsackie virus. The COVID-19 virus may also cause them.

Most cases are mild and go away on their own, without long-term effects. If a case is more severe, it may require a few days in the hospital for medication and monitoring.

Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

If your child experiences any of these symptoms – whether or not they’ve been vaccinated – you should call their pediatrician.

> Related: If Everyone But Your Child Has Their COVID-19 Vaccine, Is Summer Travel Safe?

Has the CDC found a link between these heart problems and the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. So far, the CDC found that the rates of myocarditis and pericarditis reported in vaccinated young people are no higher than in young people who did not get the COVID-19 vaccine. We are seeing the same number of cases that we expect to see at this time of year, vaccine or not.

In other words, most signs point to this being a coincidence. But just as they do with any other medical events, the CDC and FDA are keeping an eye on reports of myocarditis and pericarditis as part of the COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring system.

> Related: 4 Things Parents Should Know About Childhood Heart Murmurs

Should my child still get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes! The recent reports of heart problems do not appear to be linked to the COVID-19 vaccine – but even if they are, the cases have been very rare, and for the most part, mild.

By comparison, the disease of COVID-19 has been horrific. It has caused devastating illness in many people, including children, and led to severe side effects. As a community, we are only now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to vaccines.

The best thing you can do for your child is to get them vaccinated, and protect them from COVID-19.

 

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