AHA: Don’t delay COVID shot while CDC reviews myocarditis cases


While the investigation into cases of myocarditis possibly associated with COVID vaccines proceeds, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (ASA) continue to urge everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to get it without delay.

“We remain confident that the benefits of vaccination far exceed the very unusual risks,” the leadership of the AHA/ASA said in a statement issued June 12.

“The risks of COVID-19 infection include its potentially fatal consequences and the potential long-term health effects that are still revealing themselves, including lingering consequences affecting the heart, brain, vascular system, and other organs after infection,” they point out.

Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted health care providers that the COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical Work Group (VaST) of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet June 18 to review cases of myocarditis reported in adolescents and young adults after they received a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

The CDC is monitoring the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) for cases of myocarditis that have been associated with the mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 from Pfizer and Moderna.

These cases may occur more often in males than females and more frequently after the second dose than the first dose of either mRNA vaccine. Symptoms typically occur in the 3 days after administration.

“The CDC’s ongoing investigation into cases of suspected myocarditis reflects a strong and steadfast commitment to transparency and the importance of scientific rigor on all fronts. We applaud the CDC’s unwavering efforts to lead our nation’s scientific and public health efforts, including ensuring the continued safety of the COVID-19 vaccines,” the AHA/ASA states.

They emphasize that vaccinations should continue, and say it’s important to consider the details of the suspected myocarditis cases being investigated by the CDC.

As of June 11, more than 306 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States (since Dec. 14, 2020) and nearly 43% of Americans – more than 142 million people – are now fully vaccinated.

According to the June 10 CDC VAERS report detailing adverse events through May 31:

  • 789 cases of suspected myocarditis have been reported, with 475 involving people younger than 30 years; 79 cases reported were in patients 16 or 17 years old.
  • The vast majority (81%) of the 270 patients younger than 30 years who were discharged from care after suspected myocarditis related to COVID-19 vaccination have recovered fully; the remaining 19% of patients report ongoing symptoms or complete data are missing.
  • 196 cases of suspected myocarditis after a COVID-19 vaccine were reported in young adults 18 to 24 years of age, which is higher than expected for this age group.

As of May 31, only about 9% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered were to people 16 to 24 years of age, which is why this “higher-than-normal rate of possible myocarditis cases” warrants investigation, the AHA/ASA says.

They note that these suspected myocarditis cases were reported to VAERS because of their proximity to COVID-19 vaccine administration.

It remains to be determined which cases meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of myocarditis and whether they have any direct connection to the COVID-19 vaccine, the AHA/ASA says.

They urge all health care professionals to be aware of “very rare” adverse events that could be related to a COVID-19 vaccine, including myocarditis, blood clots, low platelets, and symptoms of severe inflammation.

They advise asking patients who present with symptoms related to these conditions about the timing of recent COVID vaccinations, as needed, to confirm the diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment quickly.

The AHA will be at the CDC’s June 18 meeting to review the latest evidence on cases of suspected myocarditis after the COVID-19 vaccine, the statement adds.

The statement notes that it reflects the views of the AHA/ASA and its scientific leadership, including current president Mitchel S.V. Elkind, MD, PhD; immediate past-president Robert A. Harrington, MD; president-elect Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD; AHA/ASA chief science and medical officer Mariell Jessup, MD; and chief medical officer for prevention Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH.

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.

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