Fourteen-year-old Aiden Jo received his first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on May 12. On June 10, he woke up in the middle of the night complaining of chest pain and difficulty breathing. The boy's mother, Emily, rushed him to the hospital where he was ultimately treated for myocarditis. Emily said she had been under the impression that the adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines are rare and mild.
"What they didn't explain is that mild means hospital care and follow-up care indefinitely," she told activist group Children's Health Defense. Emily adds: "They're not explaining what mild myocarditis means. Aiden's cardiologist told us no case of myocarditis is mild. That's like saying a heart attack is mild."
Aiden is now forced to sit out gym activities, skip recess and avoid running around and playing outside with his friends due to how easily he gets tired and how poorly his heart can handle the stress of activity. His mother also faces thousands of dollars in medical care. (Related: Exclusive: Athlete who recovered from COVID facing 'very different future' after second dose of Pfizer vaccine triggers myocarditis.)
"Parents need to understand that myocarditis is not covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program," Emily said. "And the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program only covers if you're incapacitated, wheelchair-bound or dead. We have incurred thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills. We have insurance but they don't pay all. It does not account for tests down the road that we still have to get."
Myocarditis reduces your heart's ability to pump and can cause rapid or abnormal heartbeats. Severe cases of myocarditis can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest. Signs of myocarditis in children include chest pain, breathing problems, abnormal heartbeats, rapid breathing, fever and fainting.
A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 30 found that 397 children between the ages of 12 and 17 were diagnosed with myocarditis after receiving Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
The condition occurred mostly in young boys. Heart inflammation was not identified as an adverse reaction during the safety trials for the vaccine, but the CDC announced in June that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would add a warning to the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines about a possible link to cases of myocarditis in teenagers and young adults.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), CDC's vaccine advisory group, met in June to discuss cases of myocarditis in people aged 30 and younger who have received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology in their COVID-19 vaccines, while Johnson & Johnson uses the more traditional virus-based technology.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) Work Group, which is part of ACIP, assessed the reported cases and noted that the risk of myocarditis following vaccination with the mRNA-based vaccines in adolescents and young adults is notably higher after the second dose, particularly in males.
In June, the CDC said a higher-than-expected number of young men had experienced heart inflammation after their second dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, with more than half the cases reported in people between the ages of 12 and 24.
The higher-than-expected rate of myocarditis cases among Americans below 30 is consistent with the data from Israel.
Israel's Ministry of Health identified over 200 cases of myocarditis in men between 16 and 30 years old, a vast majority of those happening at the younger end of that range. That equates to a risk of between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 6,000 of suffering from heart inflammation.
According to VaST, the data suggests a likely association of myocarditis with mRNA vaccination in adolescents and young adults.
As of July 16, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received a total of 9,246 reports of adverse reactions among children. The 397 reports of heart inflammation made up 4.3 percent of the total. However, the system wasn't designed to capture all cases of heart inflammation and only counted the reports which used the term myocarditis.
Reuters reported Friday, Aug. 20, that health officials in the U.S. are reviewing reports that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine may be linked to a higher risk of heart condition in younger adults than previously thought.
The review was focused on Canadian data suggesting that there might be a 2.5 times higher incidence of myocarditis in those who get the Moderna vaccine compared with Pfizer's vaccine, especially in men below the age of 30. (Related: Exclusive: Dad says life 'not the same' for 21-year-old student who developed myocarditis after second Moderna shot.)
"While we won't comment on internal meetings or discussions, we can say that FDA is absolutely committed to reviewing data as it becomes available to us," the FDA said.
Pfizer, whose vaccine has been authorized for use in Americans as young as 12, previously said it had not observed a higher rate of heart inflammation than would normally be expected in the general population. Moderna said it also could not identify a causal association with the heart inflammation cases and its vaccine.
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