Benefits of COVID Vaccination Far Outweigh Minor Risk of Heart Condition, CDC Says

Researchers at the CDC found that COVID-19 vaccines may have caused mild heart problems in more than 1,200, Americans, but cases were rare and resolved quickly

teen vaccine
A person getting vaccinated. Photo: Getty

Two COVID-19 vaccines may have caused mild heart problems in a small number of Americans, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control found, however the benefits of getting vaccinated against the virus far outweigh any risks, they said.

Members of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices found that more than 1,200 Americans, primarily men under 30 years old, developed two types of mild heart conditions after getting a second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. Some reported having myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, or pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining around the heart.

The number of cases is higher than what is typically seen, but still very low, the CDC said. Just 12.6 people developed a mild heart condition for every 1 million second doses that were administered. The conditions also resolved quickly.

And the CDC researchers estimated the risk of illness from COVID-19 if people abstain from the vaccine is far higher. If 1 million boys aged 12 to 17 receive their second dose, statistically it could cause at most 70 cases of myocarditis, but it would prevent 5,700 COVID-19 infections, 215 hospitalizations and two deaths.

A group of more than a dozen federal and medical organizations said in a joint statement that myocarditis "is an extremely rare side effect, and only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination," The New York Times reported.

Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, tells PEOPLE that this should not stop people from getting vaccinated.

"It's rare. It's generally pretty mild, and the vast, vast majority of people get better very quickly," he says. "You have to compare it to the illness that can be produced by COVID — COVID can produce this very same illness at a much higher rate than does the vaccine. If you look at the balance, the vaccine comes out way ahead."

The CDC advisory group recommended that the Food and Drug Administration add a warning about the potential risk of myocarditis and pericarditis to the official fact sheet on the vaccines, to help health care workers.

"Doctors will have to talk about it, but my grandchildren, who are right in the age group, have been vaccinated," Schaffner says. "It's more something that doctors should warn patients to keep an eye out for if they're in that age range."

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