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Fact Check-Most cases of myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccines are not irreversible

Medical experts on the basis of evidence so far disagree with claims made on social media that myocarditis following the COVID-19 vaccine is irreversible. Social media claims that “over the years,” many children diagnosed with myocarditis will die are unfounded, representatives from the Myocarditis Foundation say.

Posts making claims regarding the mortality rate of children diagnosed with COVID-19-linked myocarditis are viewable here , here .

The text reads: “Myocarditis is irreversible. Once the heart muscle is damaged, it cannot be repaired by the body. It is a devastating condition. Dr. Rogers explains that ‘over the course of several years many of those children will die. Dr. Anthony Hinton (‘Consultant Surgeon with 30 years experience in the NHS’) points out that myocarditis has a 20% fatality rate after 2 years and a 50% fatality rate after 5 years.’ Dr. Hinton poignantly explains that ‘you can’t have ‘mild myocarditis’ – in the same way you can’t be ‘a little bit pregnant.’’”

Medical experts, however, said the evidence so far showed those with myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccines recover quickly.

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Inc vaccines have been linked to rare cases of heart inflammation called myocarditis, especially in young men (here).

However, the benefits of mRNA shots in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks, European and U.S. regulators and the World Health Organization have said (here).

On Oct 1, Canadian health officials said data suggests reported cases of rare heart inflammation occurs more often in adolescents and adults under 30 years of age, and more often in males. The statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada said the majority of the affected individuals experienced relatively mild illness and recovered quickly (here).

The risk of cardiac complications, including heart inflammation, has been shown to be substantially increased following COVID-19 infections, with the risks higher after the infection than after vaccination, the statement said.

A Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) report on myocarditis among members of the U.S. military following mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations (here) found that 23 male patients developed myocarditis. “These episodes occurred against the backdrop of 2.8 million doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered,” it said. “Vigilance for rare adverse events, including myocarditis, after COVID-19 vaccination is warranted but should not diminish overall confidence in vaccination during the current pandemic.”

It notes that, “Cardiac symptoms resolved within 1 week of onset for 16 patients. Seven patients continued to have chest discomfort at the time of this report; follow-up is ongoing.”

The Myocarditis Foundation (here) said here , that during the “time period (March 2020-January 2021), 132 out of nearly 4 million children without COVID-19 developed myocarditis.” Overall, “the risk of myocarditis is more than 30 times higher among COVID-19 patients.”

In terms of recovery, the Foundation said (here) that “unlike adult patients, children don’t usually have to fight other issues like chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Their bodies are much healthier and have more energy to use for recovery.”

This notion was supported by Dr Justin Godown (here), Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in Tennessee at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. In a phone interview, Godown told Reuters data showed children diagnosed with myocarditis were only briefly affected. It “kind of resolves on its own,” he said.

However, we do not yet know the long-term outcomes. “People who get it tend to do relatively well and have fairly benign courses. Does that mean that we know what their long-term outcomes are going to be from that? We don’t,” he said. “We just don’t have that data yet.”

Dr Matt Oster (here), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expert Director of the Children’s Cardiac Outcomes Research Program at Sibley Heart Center in Atlanta, Georgia shared similar thoughts with Reuters via email.

“Myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccine has less occurrence of heart failure and has a milder acute clinical course,” said Oster. The physician said “short-term outcomes of myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccine are much better than those of typical viral myocarditis”. As far as long-term outcomes go, he said that studies were ongoing.

On July 1, 2021, Harvard Health reported that most cases had been mild. “Experts are still gathering information, but as of this writing, 79% of teens and young adults who experienced this had recovered,” it said (here).

Guidance (here) from the CDC says that instances of myocarditis after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine are rare. The CDC reports that “Myocarditis and pericarditis have rarely been reported, especially in adolescents and young adult males within several days after COVID-19 vaccination.”

Studies (here) (here) have shown the myocarditis symptoms usually resolve quickly.

Similar recovery findings were reported in an article published by Hackensack Meridian Health seen here .

Cardiologist Brett Sealove, Chief of cardiology at Jersey Shore University Medical Center (here) said in a contribution to the publication that in his experience, “The vast majority of these cases recover on their own.”

Fellow contributor Dr Meghan Tozzi (here), a pediatric cardiologist at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center found cases in children were “a rather mild version of myocarditis that develops after vaccination.” She said “children tend to bounce back quickly, get better on their own and return to school in a few days.” She recommended COVID-19 vaccines as “the risk for myocarditis from the vaccine is very small and expected to be an even lower risk in the five- to 11-year-old age group.”

A CDC page updated Nov. 12, 2021, says “Most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis who received care responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly.”

It advised anyone who develops the condition to consult with their doctor and that more information will be shared as it becomes available (here).

Martha Sharan, from the CDC’s Vaccine Task Force for COVID Response, told Reuters via email, “For the cases reported after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination, most who presented to medical care have responded well to medications and rest.”

She shared a CDC report that shows that after 3 months 91% of cardiologists reported that patients with myocarditis after receiving the COVID-19 were “fully or probably recovered” (page 22, here ).

In August 2021, the public health agency advertised for a survey aiming to follow up on myocarditis cases post COVID-19 vaccination (here).

VERDICT

Missing context. From what is known so far, many of those who develop myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccinations recover.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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