Heart inflammation linked to Pfizer, Moderna vaccines found more often in young men: WHO

Rare cases of heart inflammation occur after the second dose of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, says the WHO. Should you still get the vaccine?

There have been several reports of suspected side effects, such as unusual blood clots, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining that surrounds the heart) post Covid-19 vaccination. Now, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed mild cases of heart inflammation following vaccination with the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna. These cases occurred more often in younger men and after the second dose of the vaccine, typically within a few days after vaccination, said the global health body in a statement.

However, the organisation said that cases of myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination with the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are very rare, and the benefits of getting the vaccines still outweigh the risks, even among young people. It acknowledges the clear benefits of the mRNA vaccines in reducing deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 infections.

According to WHO's Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS), cases of heart inflammation post Covid-19 had been reported in the US and several other countries.

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As of June 11, 2021, about 40.6 cases of myocarditis per million second doses among males and 4.2 cases per million second doses among females have been reported in people aged between 12 and 29 years who received the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, as recorded by the US Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). The rates were lower in population over 30 years of age, with 2.4 and 1.0 per million second doses, respectively, for males and females.

The European Medicines Agency had also confirmed "a plausible causal relationship between myocarditis and the mRNA vaccines" in Europe.

Watch out for the symptoms of myocarditis

The WHO has advised clinicians to be aware of the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination with mRNA vaccines, especially in adolescent or young males who are most likely to be affected. "Possible, suspected cases should be evaluated, provided guidance and be followed up with cardiologist consultation," it said.

New onset and persisting chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations following vaccination, are some of the possible symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis. Vaccinated individuals are asked to seek immediate medical attention if they develop any such conditions.

While myocarditis and pericarditis can lead to serious illness, they are often mild and respond well to conservative treatment, (e.g. rest, treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs etc), the WHO noted in its statement.

Moderna vaccine already approved in India

Moderna's mRNA Covid-19 vaccine is the fourth vaccine approved for emergency use in India. Indian pharma company Cipla was recently granted permission by India's drug regulator, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), to import Moderna vaccine, which has shown nearly 95% efficacy against Covid-19, from the US.

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