29th September will be World Heart Day 2022. This is a day of attention to how we can achieve and maintain healthy hearts. The heart has been a focal point for some critics of the COVID-19 vaccines. This is due to (understandable) concern about the risks that it poses to heart health. In this article we explore the risks that COVID-19 vaccines pose to the heart, and how most health experts continue to suggest that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.
According to the British Heart Foundation, myocarditis is an “inflammation of the myocardium – the heart muscle”. In extreme cases, damage can be severe, but most patients experience only mild symptoms. Sometimes the cause is unknown, but it is often caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection, a chest infection, or an autoimmune disease.
The British Heart Foundation describes pericarditis as an “inflammation of the pericardium, the protective sac that surrounds your heart”. This inflammation occurs if blood or fluid leaks between the two layers of this sac. It can be caused by infection, another inflammatory condition, or inflammation of the myocardium rubbing against the pericardium.
So, what role do COVID-19 vaccines play?
As we can infer from the references to “infection” in the previous paragraphs, catching COVID-19 is likely to be less than ideal. Thus, a vaccine to reduce the associated risks must be a good thing, right? In most cases, yes. However, in some patients, most frequently young males, mRNA vaccination increased the risk of myocarditis. This risk has been exaggerated by many, so we checked in with people who know better to learn more.
|CDC||CDC/CDC||“benefits outweigh the risks”|
|NIH||NIH||“symptoms are usually mild” The risk in 2019 was 1.3 in 100,000 The risk after COVID-19 mRNA vaccination is 2 in 100,000|
|British government||Gov.uk||“increased risk of myocarditis” following an mRNA vaccination However, “most individuals respond well to standard treatment”|
|British Heart Foundation||BHF||“rare cases of myocarditis following the Moderna” vaccine “even more rarely” the Pfizer vaccine “the risk of getting myocarditis or pericarditis is very low”|
|British Medical Journal||BMJ||“myocarditis is rare”|
|The Lancet||Lancet||“mRNA vaccination to be associated with a short-term increased risk” “predominantly mild”|
This table selects just a tiny percentage of a wider range of sources that explain that the risks of myocarditis or pericarditis after mRNA vaccination are not enough to outweigh the benefits it offers. Several of these sources identify the interesting statistic that patients are more likely to get struck by lightning (7 in 100,000) than to suffer these heart conditions after vaccination (2 in 100,000).
To learn more about how the COVID-19 vaccines were, and continue to be, tested for safety as well as efficacy, get your tickets to the World Vaccine Congress here. If you’re interested in learning more about some of the reasons why people don’t get vaccinated, click here.