As a pediatric cardiologist, one of things I hear most – since pediatric COVID-19 vaccines have been made available – when parents and their child visit us in our Children’s Heart Institute Outpatient Clinic is, “What are the chances of the COVID-19 vaccine, giving my child myocarditis?” And the answer I tell them each time, “Extremely low – much, much lower than your child getting COVID-19 which results in a heart issue.”
It’s unfortunate that the misinformation and misconceptions floating out there are leaving our parents feeling vulnerable and indecisive – even though I know they want what is best for the child. We all do; so, it’s important to clear the air on the facts and fiction surrounding this.
Myocarditis vs. Post-Vaccine Myocarditis
Quite simply put, myocarditis is inflammation of the child’s heart. Children can get myocarditis from the cold, flu and now also COVID-19. There are mild cases of myocarditis and severe cases. In mild cases your child may experience heart palpitations, chest pain and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, there could be permanent heart muscle damage and hospitalization.
Now, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has identified myocarditis as a rare side event of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – with more of this rare occurrence presenting in male teens and young adults. As a parent it’s completely normal to feel concerned about any vaccine side effect your child may have. But it’s important to weigh the risk of side effects against the risk of infection. With COVID-19, children and teens have a much greater chance of being infected with COVID-19 that results in a heart issue, than experiencing myocarditis as a side effect of the vaccine.
In addition, children who were vaccinated against COVID-19, if they were to get myocarditis – studies show that post-vaccine-related myocarditis is much more mild than classic myocarditis. Symptom duration is much shorter and usually resolves with minimal, if any, medical treatment, and heart function is less affected than those with classic myocarditis.
COVID-19 & Side Effects of MIS-C
At the start of the pandemic, kids weren’t being as affected by COVID-19, as adults were. We were all relieved about that. But with this latest Omicron surge that has changed. We have more children hospitalized than ever before with COVID-19. One condition we are seeing grow exponentially is the number of COVID-19 related MIS-C (multi symptom inflammatory syndrome) infections.
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart, but MIS-C eyes, skin and some internal organs becoming inflamed, in addition to the heart. It’s much more severe than myocarditis. About 50 percent of MIS-C patients have decreased heart function. This is not a position you want to put your child in.
In my line of work as a medical professional, and as a dad myself, facts matter. I vaccinated my children as soon as I could to protect them against COVID-19 which could have a much more negative impact on their overall health than any post-vaccine acquired heart disease. Please help me bust the myth that the COVID-19 vaccine can increase the risk of a child having a heart condition, it is actually quite the opposite.