Need to Know: Heart Problems After COVID-19

The risks of experiencing a heart problem after receiving the mRNA vaccine are very low compared to the risks of cardiac complications from getting the COVID-19 virus. A study published in February of 2022 shows that people can experience serious heart complications for as long as a year after even just a mild case of the coronavirus.

It’s true there have been some reports of some people experiencing heart (cardiac) complications after receiving the mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. While rare, most of these instances occurred for teen boys aged 12-17 and young men aged 18-29 after the second dose of the vaccine and involved either myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammatory conditions of the heart.

The CDC recommends everyone receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of receiving any vaccine.

Here are some answers to the most common questions about COVID-19, mRNA vaccines, and potential heart problems.

Doctors are still working to better understand the connection between viruses and inflammatory heart conditions like myocarditis and pericarditis. However, substantial data is available that shows much higher instances of these two cardiac complications, and what is known as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS), for people of all ages who have had a COVID-19 infection.

Myocarditis is a very rare condition that involves the inflammation of the heart muscle, while pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart muscle. While myocarditis has no symptoms, people with pericarditis often feel chest pain. MIS is a rare and serious condition associated with COVID-19 where the heart becomes inflamed along with other organs like your lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and intestines. All three conditions/complications can be serious or even life-threatening if left untreated.

The researchers from 40 different health systems wanted to compare the risks of cardiac complications after COVID-19 infections with the risks after the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. The study estimated the risks of cardiac complications for both males and females from aged 5 – 30 and older.

Researchers found that the risks of serious cardiac complications after having a COVID-19 infection are much higher than after a second dose of the mRNA vaccine.

  • For teen boys aged 12-17 the risk of cardiac complications was 1.8–5.6 times as high after having COVID-19 than after getting the second vaccine dose (and 4.9–69.0 times as high after getting the first vaccine dose).
  • Among males aged 18–29 years, the risk of cardiac complications was 6.7–8.5 times as high after having COVID-19 than after getting the second mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose (and 7.2–61.8 times as high after getting the first vaccine dose).
  • Among females aged 12–17 years, the risk of cardiac complications was 6.7–29.5 times as high after having COVID-19 than after getting the second mRNA vaccine dose (and 11.6–39.5 times as high after the first vaccine dose).
  • There were few or no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis in children aged 5-11 years after receiving the mRNA virus.

While the risk is very low, the CDC takes vaccine safety very seriously. This risk may be further reduced by increasing the intervals (time) between vaccine doses, which is why the CDC recommends an 8-week interval between vaccine doses for some people ages 12 years and older, and especially for males aged 12–39 years.

Make an informed decision.

It’s important to understand that complications from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare, and millions of people have received the vaccination without incident. At the same time, it is also important to understand that the risk of cardiac complication after even a mild COVID-19 infection can be significant. A new study reported that people who had recovered from COVID-19 showed stark increases in cardiovascular problems during the year after infection.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Findings from this study, and others, show that that the risk of myocarditis is greater after having a COVID-19 infection than after being vaccinated against COVID-19. There is a substantial risk of experiencing some kind of cardiac complication (including a much greater risk of heart failure) after COVID-19 infection, another reason why CDC recommends everyone eligible get vaccinated against the virus.

Stay safe.

Protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from the virus by following safety guidelines against COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask outside the home and especially in public spaces.
  • Practice social distancing at least six feet from others.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
  • Avoid areas where COVID transmission is high, if possible.
  • Follow CDC recommendations for testing and isolation if you develop symptoms.

New data shows that people who are vaccinated following infection may have the best protection from COVID-19, especially against newer variants. If you’ve already had COVID-19 getting fully vaccinated may be the best way to protect you, your family and your community and help slow the spread of the virus.


Resources:

CDC Study on Cardiac Complications After COVID-19

Heart Conditions after COVID-19

CDC: COVID Vaccinations for Children and Teens

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