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Can COVID-19 Vaccines Cause Myocarditis?

Why do some folks think that COVID-19 vaccines can cause myocarditis?

This computer translated article describes the reports of post COVID-19 vaccine myocarditis in Israel.
This computer translated article describes the reports of post COVID-19 vaccine myocarditis in Israel.

A new report from the Ministry of Health of Israel in which they state that they have discovered 62 cases of myocarditis and peri-myocarditis, mostly in young men who had recently received a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Can COVID-19 Vaccines Cause Myocarditis?

Does that mean the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine causes myocarditis?

Of course not!

What it means is that they found a possible safety signal and it needs to be further investigated.

It is reassuring that no one else has found this signal, although it does seem to be true that Israel has vaccinated more young people than most other countries, and it was these young people who developed myocarditis.

“We have not seen a signal, and we’ve actually looked intentionally for the signal in the over 200 million doses we’ve given.”

Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC on Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials

Wait, what is myocarditis?

“In simple terms, myocarditis is a disease that causes inflammation of the heart muscle. This inflammation enlarges and weakens the heart, creates scar tissue and forces it to work harder to circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body.”

Discover Myocarditis Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Although it certainly sounds scary, fortunately, many cases of myocarditis go away. And that’s good, because myocarditis is likely not as rare as most people think.

“The incidence of myocarditis is approximately 1.5 million cases worldwide per year. Incidence is usually estimated between 10 to 20 cases per 100,000 persons. The overall incidence is unknown and probably underdiagnosed.”

Viral Myocarditis

In fact, it is thought that “1% to 5% of all patients with acute viral infections may involve the myocardium,” including common childhood infections like parvovirus B-19 (Fifth disease) and human herpesvirus 6 (roseola).

Interestingly, there have been rare reports of cardiac complications, including myocarditis and pericarditis, after adults get the smallpox vaccine.

“Reports of cardiac complications – including myocarditis, pericarditis, and arrhythmias – following smallpox vaccination, have dated back to the 1950s in the United States, although a total of only six such cases were reported prior to 2003.”

Myocarditis and pericarditis are rare following live viral vaccinations in adults

But not after other vaccines.

“We found that the rate of myocarditis and pericarditis in the 42 days following VZV, YFV, OPV, or MMR vaccination was very low and was not statistically different than the rate of these events during unexposed, control intervals. These findings confirm that cardiovascular complications related to commonly-administered, live viral vaccination are rare in adults.”

Myocarditis and pericarditis are rare following live viral vaccinations in adults

Including other live vaccines.

Vaccine Preventable Diseases Cause Myocarditis

And tragically, many viral and bacterial infections, including many vaccine-preventable diseases can cause myocarditis.

From diphtheria and chicken pox to measles, mumps, rubella, and flu, many vaccine preventable diseases are known to cause myocarditis and other heart conditions.

Not surprisingly, so can a natural COVID-19 infection.

“Pericarditis and myocarditis with clinical stability are frequent long after SARS-CoV-2 infection, even in presently asymptomatic subjects. These observations will probably apply to the general population infected and may indicate that cardiac sequelae might occur late in association with an altered (delayed) innate and adaptative immune response.”

Pericarditis and myocarditis long after SARS-CoV-2 infection: a cross-sectional descriptive study in health-care workers

What is surprising is that we are seeing myocarditis and pericarditis in some people long after they have recovered from their initial SARS-CoV-2 infection, sometimes in folks who were initially asymptomatic!

“If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it’s important to consult with your doctor immediately if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or heart palpitations. These symptoms may indicate myocarditis as a complication of having the virus.”

Symptoms of Coronavirus That May Point to Possible Myocarditis

Or maybe not so surprising…

Remember, many common viral diseases, often without symptoms, can cause myocarditis.

So why not SARS-CoV-2 too?

But the fact that so many common viral diseases, often without symptoms, can cause myocarditis offers a clue as to why you might find some folks with myocarditis after they get a COVID-19 vaccine. And why experts aren’t finding this signal everywhere that the vaccine is being given.

More on Vaccines and Myocarditis

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