Covid vaccine side effects: Reports of myocarditis symptoms in young men – what is it?

The vaccine rollout has seen an unprecedented amount of people being vaccinated in a very short space of time. In the UK, a total of around 27 million people are now fully vaccinated. As the age group being called up for their vaccines hits the younger bracket, worrying reports from both Israel and the US have reported heart inflammation side effects, mostly seen among young men. What is the link?

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The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines appear to put young men at elevated risk of developing a heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis, researchers in Israel say.

A report which was submitted to the Israeli Ministry of Health concluded that between one in 3000 and one in 6000 men ages 16 to 24 who received the vaccine developed the rare condition. 

Officials at the European Medicines Agency said on 28 May they had received 107 reports of myocarditis following the Pfizer vaccine, accounting for about one in 175,000 doses administered.

What is myocarditis?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle.

It can affect the heart muscle and the heart’s electrical system, reducing the heart’s ability to pump and causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms.

A viral infection usually causes myocarditis, but it can result from a reaction to a drug or be part of a more general inflammatory condition, said the Mayo Clinic.

The health site added: “Signs and symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and arrhythmias.”

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The US have reported 14 cases of myocarditis after receiving the vaccine.

Of the 14 cases, one patient, who tested positive for COVID-19 three months ago, developed myocarditis after their first dose of vaccine.

The other remaining 13 patients developed myocarditis after their second vaccine doses.

Eleven received the Moderna vaccine and three received the Pfizer vaccine.

According to reports, Israel is exploring any link between myocarditis and the Pfizer vaccine.

Of more than five million vaccines administered in Israel, 62 cases of myocarditis were recorded days after vaccination.

Most were seen in men under age 30 with 56 of the 62 cases occurred after the second vaccine dose.

“It does suggest that this is, at least statistically, a real phenomenon,” said Dr Peter Liu, a cardiologist and chief scientific officer of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. 

In response to the report, Pfizer said it was aware of the findings, but that no causal link between myocarditis and its vaccine had been established, according to Reuters. 

In the case of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, there were no meaningful differences in how well it works in people with health conditions that put them at risk of severe Covid-19, said the British Heart Foundation.

The health charity added: “Testing for the Oxford (also known as Vaxzevria) vaccine included people with heart and circulatory disease, diabetes, lung disease and obesity, and found it gave similar levels of protection as to those who did not have those conditions.

“Similarly, the testing for the Moderna vaccine included people with diabetes, significant heart or circulatory disease, chronic lung disease, severe obesity and liver disease.

“The research found that the vaccine worked similarly well in these higher-risk groups to the general population.”
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