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Experts say vaccines are still the best way to avoid serious illnesses from COVID-19. Luis Velasco/Stocksy United
  • A new report states that the risk of heart health issues such as myocarditis remains low from both COVID-19 infections as well as vaccines.
  • The researchers note the risk is higher if you contract COVID-19 than it is from a vaccination.
  • They say the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks.

Since the first two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were approved for use against COVID-19 in late 2020, there has been discussion about the virus and the vaccines and their relationship to heart issues.

In early 2021, Healthline reported that people with COVID-19 and people who have been given the mRNA vaccination are both at a slightly higher risk of developing heart issues such as myocarditis.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Another issue, pericarditis, is the inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. In both cases, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger.

A recent CDC study shows the ongoing risks and potential negative health outcomes, including heart health issues, after a COVID-19 infection and during recovery.

While studies have found an increased risk for cardiac complications after SARS-CoV-2 infection and mRNA COVID-19 vaccination, few have compared these risks until this CDC study.

Using data from 40 U.S. healthcare systems participating in a network compiled by the CDC, researchers found that the risk for cardiac complications was significantly higher after SARS-CoV-2 infection than after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination for both males and females in all age groups.

The report also found cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which the CDC describes as “a rare but serious complication of SARS-CoV-2 infection with frequent cardiac involvement.”

In the study, the incidence of cardiac outcomes after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination was highest for males aged 12 to 17 years after a second vaccine dose.

Importantly, however, the CDC noted that these health issues remain rare and that COVID-19 vaccinations are still by far the best way to keep yourself healthy.

Experts note that the risk of getting myocarditis is significantly higher after developing COVID-19 than it is after getting the vaccine.

The CDC study found the risk for cardiac conditions was higher between one and three weeks after infection or vaccination.

For male patients 12 to 17 years old, the CDC said the risk for cardiac outcomes was highest “after the second vaccine dose” of an mRNA vaccine but was even higher after a COVID-19 infection.

“The risk for cardiac outcomes was likewise significantly higher after SARS-CoV-2 infection than after first, second, or unspecified dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination for all other groups by sex and age,” the researchers also noted.

Overall, the CDC concludes that a slightly higher risk of heart issues is not nearly as serious as the health consequences of choosing not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“These findings support the continued use of recommended mRNA COVID-19 vaccines among all eligible persons aged 5 years and up,” the study noted.

Dr. Eric Adler, a cardiologist with UC San Diego Health who specializes in heart transplants, concurs with the CDC’s position that it is still much safer to get the vaccine.

“We estimate that from what we have published before, in terms of the risk of myocarditis with vaccination, it’s like 20 to 30 people per million,” Adler said. “So, it’s not zero, but it is extremely low.“

Another reason Adler says he is generally supportive of the vaccine in all eligible populations is that “the myocarditis we have seen has been mostly benign.”