This week, the headline on my local news read app read, “18 teens and young adults have shown symptoms of heart problems after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.” I was floored, especially since my 14-year-old received the vaccine the week prior. The heart problem detected in teens who’ve received the vaccine is called myocarditis. The CDC is working to confirm (or deny) whether the heart issue was caused by the vaccine or something else.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart. It affects the heart muscle and electrical system which causes an abnormal heart rhythm. In severe cases, it weakens the heart and stops it from pumping blood to the rest of your body which can cause blood clots in the heart, stroke, or heart attack.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, 3.94 million children have been diagnosed with COVID-19. These are not numbers we should turn a blind eye to, or continue to say children aren’t affected by the disease. Their lives matter, and so do the implications of why teens and young people have contracted myocarditis after receiving the vaccine. As reported by the Mayo Clinic, the infection is usually the result of a reaction to a drug or general inflammatory condition. Of the 161 million people who’ve received the vaccine so far, 4.5 million are between the ages of 12-18 years old.
The CDC has not officially reported on the number of reported cases of myocarditis being found in teens and young adults. In a report on May 17th, they stated, “Within CDC safety monitoring systems, rates of myocarditis reports in the window following COVID-19 vaccination have not differed from expected baseline rates. However, VaST members felt that information about reports of myocarditis should be communicated to providers.”
Generally, per 100,000 people 10 to 20 cases a year are reported to have myocarditis. But Dr. Ted O’Connell, the Department Chair of Family and Community Medicine at Kaiser Permanente, told NBC San Diego, “What’s important to know and to recognize is that the rates that we’re seeing of myocarditis are no higher than what we would experience normally. So, we don’t know if it’s associated with the vaccine or not.” He also added that all of the myocarditis cases reported in teens have been mild.
Here’s what we know about the infection rates of myocarditis in teens and young adults, as reported by the CDC:
- It’s predominantly been reported in teens and young adults
- It’s affects more males than females
- It’s occurred more often following the second dose of the vaccine
- It typically appears within four days after vaccination
Despite this, experts are saying the risk is minimal and in no way should discourage folks from opting to vaccinate their tweens and teens. Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Reuters, “Vaccines are going to unequivocally be much more beneficial outweighing this very low, if conclusively established, risk.”
And Dr. Liam Yore, past president of the Washington State chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told the New York Times, that he had seen worse outcomes than myocarditis in young patients with COVID, adding, “The relative risk is a lot in favor of getting the vaccine, especially considering how many doses of the vaccine have been administered.”
And they are right. No vaccine, even the flu shot, comes without risk. We know a lot about the flu shot because it’s been around for a minute. But the COVID-19 vaccine, like the disease itself, is new.
As parents, we need to stay informed and aware of the many twists and turns of this pandemic. We can, and should, arm ourselves with the knowledge to make the most informed and best decisions for our kids. But what we cannot do is stop vaccinating our kids for fear of a risk that is far more rare than contracting COVID.