Ohio health officials: Heart issues rare in vaccinated teens, benefits outweigh risk

A side effect to the COVID-19 vaccine resulting in inflammation to the heart muscle in teens is rare, and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk, Ohio health officials said Thursday.

Myocarditis can reduce the heart’s ability to pump, causing fatigue, chest pains and shortness of breath, said Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Bruce Vanderhoff.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met Wednesday to discuss a possible connection between the COVID-19 vaccine and cases of myocarditis in younger people.

“It’s now very clear that this is an extremely rare side effect that only affects a very small number of people following vaccination,” Vanderhoff said. “Most cases are mild, and the individuals recover often on their own or with minimal treatment.”

Simon Lee, a pediatric cardiologist at The Heart Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said symptoms can range from mild to severe, with patients sometimes being admitted to the hospital to monitor inflammation and to make sure the patient doesn’t develop a severe case.

While myocarditis can be caused by multiple things, COVID-19 vaccine-related cases appear to be mild and are resolved without treatment, Lee said.

“I’m not aware of any patients yet with vaccine-associated myocarditis who have had the most severe and dangerous form,” he said, adding that it’s still being monitored closely.

The CDC also determined that the heart risks due to COVID infections can often be more severe, Vanderhoff said.

“The benefits of these COVID-19 vaccines clearly outweigh the risks,” he said. “For anyone, the risks of COVID-19 are great and can include hospitalizations and death. In fact, 2,767 COVID-19 deaths have been reported among people aged 12-29 years with 316 of those deaths having been reported just since April 1.”

Lee noted that while coronavirus typically has a mild impact on children, it can result in severe illness for some. However, even mild and less severe cases can result in persistent symptoms.

“I’ve seen a lot of healthy teenagers come to us after COVID-19 and some of these kids have very significant symptoms: shortness of breath, chest tightness and fatigue,” he said. “Sometimes these symptoms can last for weeks and weeks and interfere with quality of life and getting back to sports and regular life in general.”

Vanderhoff said the CDC’s ACIP meeting should reassure people that the vaccine safety systems are working.

“What I want to highlight is that thanks to the extensive safety monitoring systems in the U.S., we can really have the confidence that we have the systems in place to identify this risk, though it is very small,” he said.

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