The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on June 26 that they are making a series of changes to their COVID-19 vaccines factsheet and this time, they are warning the people about the increased risks of myocarditis and pericarditis – the inflammation of the heart muscle and surrounding heart tissues.
In this article, we speak to Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Julian Tan from The Cardiology Practice at Farrer Park Hospital, to learn more about heart inflammation and the possible health effects the COVID-19 vaccines can have on the heart.
Link between Myocarditis and COVID-19 Vaccines
When asked what myocarditis is, Dr. Tan shared that the condition refers to the inflammation of the heart muscle.
With young men around the world and in Singapore reportedly experiencing myocarditis after their COVID-19 vaccination, it has also created a stir in the community with some fearing they would contract the condition.
Touching on this, Dr. Tan said: “An advisory (by the FDA) about the increased risk of myocarditis has been issued and it is of concern but not worrisome. We (medical professionals) are more worried about COVID-19 infections causing heart-related problems, stroke and even myocarditis.”
Common for Vaccines and Medications to Cause Rare Adverse Effects on the Heart
While Dr. Tan understands the concerns the public have on the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, he wish to highlight that this is not a new phenomenon.
In fact, there are many existing vaccines and other forms of medications which can also cause rare adverse effects on the heart.
Signs and Treatments for Myocarditis
“Common signs of myocarditis includes chest pain. It is usually followed by fever and some patients may also present with breathlessness. If you have these symptoms, consult a doctor and get yourself checked immediately,” Dr. Tan shared.
When asked how dangerous myocarditis is, Dr. Tan shared that majority of patients recover within one to two weeks. It only gets dangerous when the inflammation overwhelms the heart muscle.
“When this happens, it can compromise the heart muscle and cause the heart pumping strength to be wiped out. In this case, patients may then require an external heart pump. But again, this is a very rare occurrence,” Dr. Tan added.
According to Dr. Tan, myocarditis treatment is usually conservative. This means cardiologists would just provide medication to lower the blood pressure and if necessary, painkillers to relief the patient’s pain.
The inflammation usually goes away after one to two weeks and is able to recover on its own.
Benefits of COVID-19 Vaccine Outweigh Risks
Referencing an infographic shared by the Ministry of Health, Dr. Tan shared that vaccines effectively reduce one’s risk of developing severe heart problems.
In the chart, where data is obtained from a May report detailing the number of hospitalization, ICU admissions and deaths in the U.S., it is shown that for every million second dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, there are 10 cases of myocarditis in females aged 12 to 17 and about 70 cases in males in the same age group.
“If we put this into context with the handful of cases of COVID-19 vaccines with side effects such as heart inflammation, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks,” Dr. Tan concluded.
Check out the highlights of Dr. Julian Tan’s interview with radio station CNA938 on the topic of COVID-19 Vaccines and Heart Inflammation.