November 29, 2023

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CDC panel warns of ‘likely’ link between vaccines and myocarditis

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The rate at which myocarditis or pericarditis occurs in young people post-COVID vaccination is higher than typically expected. Members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, stopped short of discouraging young people from receiving mRNA vaccines for COVID, however, according to Healio.

Dr. Grace Lee, co-chair of the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical Work Group, said the data “suggest likely association of myocarditis with mRNA vaccination in adolescents and young adults.”

The panel met on June 23 to discuss data on post-vaccination heart inflammation cases, though the meeting was initially set for last week. Officials pushed the emergency meeting back because of the new Juneteenth holiday. In April, the CDC briefly paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports of rare blood clotting complications that landed six people in the hospital. Officials did not pause Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations despite higher hospitalization numbers.

Young males most likely to report heart inflammation post-vaccination

Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the Immunization Safety Office at the CDC, reported 1,226 cases of heart inflammation (myocarditis) and inflammation of the heart lining (pericarditis) in adolescents and adults following vaccination.  The data show males are more likely than females to experience heart problems following the shot. And heart inflammation is more common following the second dose, according to data gathered through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and V-Safe.

Of those 1,226 cases, VAERS showed 484 cases in post-vaccinated individuals under the age of 29, which is particularly concerning. More than 300 required hospitalization, nine remain hospitalized, and two are in the ICU.

The data revealed a massive difference between the expected rates of myocarditis and pericarditis by age and the occurrence rate in recently vaccinated teens and young adults. For instance, Shimabukuro reported that officials would typically anticipate 0-4 cases of heart inflammation in males between the ages 12-17 post-vaccination. VAERS reports showed 128 among males in that age group post within a week of receiving the second dose of COVID vaccine.

Vaccine benefits outweigh risks, official says

The World Health Organization vaccine recommendations yesterday said “children should not be vaccinated for the moment” because there is insufficient evidence to make recommendations. However, WHO changed its website removing that statement and replacing it with “More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.”

“The benefits (of vaccination) still clearly outweigh the risks for COVID-19 vaccination in adolescents and young adults,” Dr. Sara Oliver, Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said.

Most of the confirmed cases of heart inflammation required hospitalization. However, Mathew Oster, a member of the CDC COVID-19 Task Force, said most cases appear to be milder than those occurring due to other factors, though long-term data is lacking.

Viral infections, including the SARS-2 COVID virus, are a common source of myocarditis cases. Symptoms include chest pain and trouble breathing. 

FDA to add a warning to vaccine fact sheets

The CDC continues to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for individuals over the age of 12. The organization recommends even those who have had pericarditis or myocarditis previously receive the vaccine. Those who suffer from pericarditis after the first dose should receive the second dose once symptoms resolve. Those who suffer from myocarditis after the first dose also should consider receiving the second dose under certain circumstances.

The Food and Drug Administration says it will add a warning about heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults to its fact sheets on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

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