SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Next week, the Centers for Disease Control is holding an emergency meeting of its advisers. The group known as ACIP will discuss reports of a rare heart issue cropping up in adolescents and young adults.
The condition is known as myocarditis. It’s an inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a virus.
The inflammation enlarges and weakens the heart and can create scar tissue. That makes it harder for the heart to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. Another condition is also being reported: pericarditis. This is an inflammation of the other lining of the heart. The CDC said that, in both cases, the body’s immune system is causing inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger.
Federal health officials have identified 226 reports in young individuals after receiving a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccination.
Experts expected some cases would occur but these are at much higher rates than what was projected. Officials reported that the problem occurred most after the second dose and was overwhelmingly detected in males.
“It’s very rare and that’s a good thing it’s rare. It’s a very serious illness,” noted Dr. Rita Redberg who is a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco. Redberg is also editor of the prestigious medical journal “JAMA: Internal Medicine.”
Given the dangers posed by the pandemic, the FDA authorized these vaccines for emergency use only. While they were rigorously tested, they’re not yet approved.
“I think we really need more data,” Dr. Redberg said.
In adult patients diagnosed with myocarditis, the condition goes away in 50 percent of them.
But, in the other 50 percent, the heart muscle does not completely heal and, in a small number of patients, the illness is so severe, they will require a heart transplant.
“These are young people and it’s hard for us to predict who will and who won’t recover,” Dr. Redberg said.
With these cases involving kids that have received the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines — of those with known outcomes — 81 percent fully recovered. Fifteen are still hospitalized and three remain in the ICU.
The symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and a rapid heartbeat.
“How many children are going to die for COVID if we don’t vaccinate them?” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado asked.
Dr. Maldonado is a pediatric infectious disease expert at Stanford Medicine. She is also on the CDC’s advisory panel that is meeting next week.
KPIX asked Dr. Maldonado about her advice to parents.
“If parents are concerned, they should talk to their pediatric provider because all of this information is being given through the American Academy of Pediatrics to the 67,000 pediatricians throughout the country.”