A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a medical professionalShare on Pinterest
Experts say the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks associated with heart conditions.
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  • Myocarditis, also known as viral heart disease, is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed.
  • There is a small risk of developing myocarditis after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Experts point out the risk is significantly higher after developing COVID-19.
  • They say the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks associated with heart conditions.

There is a real but rare risk of developing a heart condition known as myocarditis after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

But the risk of getting myocarditis after developing COVID-19 is much higher.

“There is a 1 in 3,000 risk for myocarditis (MIS-C) in patients with COVID-19,” Dr. Pei-Ni Jone, cardiologist director of quality in echocardiography and director of Kawasaki Disease Clinic at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and a professor of pediatrics at University of Colorado School of Medicine, told Healthline. “This risk is much higher than 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 100,000 in myocarditis associated with the vaccine.”

It’s that fact that has led scientists as well as regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conclude that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the risks of myocarditis.

“The cases of myocarditis following vaccination were mild with rapid symptom improvement,” said Dr. David B. Landers, vice chair of the Heart & Vascular Hospital at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

“The majority of the cases occurred in male patients between the ages of 12 to 39 years. The estimated rate of myocarditis following vaccination in males is approximately 41 cases per million persons. For females, the rate is 20 times less frequent,” he told Healthline.

Myocarditis is also known as viral heart disease.

It makes sense that risks for developing the condition from COVID-19 would be higher than those from the vaccine.

“This can occur spontaneously due to various infections outside of SARS-CoV-2 such as Epstein-Barr, CMV [cytomegalovirus], or adenovirus, for example, but can also be due to toxins or autoimmune processes,” Dr. James D Leo, chief medical officer of the MemorialCare Health System in Long Beach, California, told Healthline.

“Myocarditis is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed,” Landers said. “The inflammation can be produced by infection or the immune response to infection. When the muscle is inflamed, the pumping action of the heart may be reduced.”

“The treatment is to support the heart with medications to decrease the effort necessary to circulate the necessary blood volume. Rarely, medications are used to treat the inflammation itself, and even more rarely, mechanical pumping devices are inserted into the vascular system,“ he said.

Leo agreed.

“Treatment of myocarditis really depends on the severity of the illness,” he said. “A person who is diagnosed with myocarditis is frequently checked or monitored for irregular heartbeat and progression to heart failure, where the heart may dilate and not pump as well. If those things develop, specific treatments directed at them become important.”

But most cases of myocarditis, whatever the origin, resolve themselves with little or no treatment. Many people don’t even realize they have it.

While the risk of myocarditis from a COVID-19 vaccine is small, it appears to be higher with the Moderna vaccine formulation, some research shows.

People looking to limit risk could opt for Pfizer’s vaccine or even take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is not made using mRNA technology but rather a modified adenovirus.

That vaccine was associated with ultra-rare blood clots leading to a temporary pause in administration, though the FDA also found the benefits here outweighed the risks.

The bottom line remains to get vaccinated if you can.

“On balance, the risks of COVID-19 infection far outweigh the risk of the vaccine-induced myocarditis,” Landers said. “Many patients with COVID-19 will develop evidence of heart damage. The long-term consequences of this viral-mediated injury are not known. The possibility of vaccine-associated myocarditis should not be a reason to avoid vaccination.”