The Truth About Covid Vaccines and Your Heart |

The Truth About Covid Vaccines and Your Heart

ONE OF THE many questions that people still have about the Covid-19 vaccines is how they affect the heart.

We know the effects of Covid itself on that organ. In the opening two years of the pandemic, about 90,000 more people died in the United States due to cardiovascular disease than would have been expected in that same time frame. True, most of these deaths were in group of people most vulnerable to Covid: people aged 65 and older. But there was also a distinct, steep rise in heart-related deaths among people aged 25 to 44.

The explanation as to why Covid affects the heart is more a theory at this point, but cardiologists believe it has to do with widespread inflammation in the body produced by the virus, as the New York Times reported in September. Infection kickstarts the immune system, which releases proteins that cause inflammation. Complications might follow for people with pre-existing plaque buildup due to coronary artery disease: The inflammation can be just enough to induce a plaque rupture, leading to a clogged coronary artery, from which a heart attack will follow.

For this and other reasons, it’s ideal to avoid getting Covid if you can. Covid vaccinations are one way to do it, yet some men worry about their effects on the heart, too.

There’s a Link Between Vaccines and the Heart

First things first: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that evidence from various countries “supports a causal association between mRNA Covid-19 vaccines…and myocarditis and pericarditis.” The former is inflammation of the heart muscle, while the latter is inflammation of the lining outside the heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) also notes that vaccine-related myocarditis can occur, with the risk highest among teenage boys and young men. Males between 12 and 29 have the greatest risk of heart complications following a Covid-19 vaccine.

In September, the CDC released some of the most up-to-date information it has about the link between Covid shots and heart inflammation. One way to look at this is by incidence rate, or the probability of a certain medical condition occurring within a specific population of people. For males aged 12 to 15, the rate of developing myocarditis or pericarditis within a week after receiving a Covid-19 booster shot was about 61 in one million. The incidence rate for guys who are 16 or 17 was 188 in one million. For men between the ages of 18 and 29, the incidence rate was about 42 in one million.

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But Covid Affects Your Heart More Than the Vaccines

The CDC also noted in that same report that the “risk [of] adverse cardiac outcomes were 1.8 to 5.6 times higher” after Covid-19 infection for males between the ages of 12 and 17 years compared to the risk associated with receiving a Covid-19 shot. Another CDC study from 2022 shows that males most at risk for complications following the Covid-19 vaccine are as much as eight times more likely to develop myocarditis from contracting Covid-19 than from getting a Covid-19 shot.

Let’s review that: “Myocarditis can be much more commonly from Covid itself than from Covid vaccines,” says Lili Barouch, M.D., who heads up Johns Hopkins Medicine’s sports cardiology program.

Many young men who get myocarditis after vaccinations recover fine, although time to recovery can vary. One survey conducted by the CDC included responses from 309 cardiologists treating vaccinated males between the ages of 12 of 29. Those healthcare providers reported full recovery times ranging from two weeks to five months. And preliminary safety data from Pfizer-BioNTech regarding its bivalent boosters—shots that protect against multiple Covid variants—indicated zero cases of myocarditis in a population of 55,649 males. Furthermore, cases of vaccine-related myocarditis or pericarditis tend to be mild in comparison to an active infection, according to research conducted in Israel and published in the AMA journal Circulation in 2022.

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