Advisors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss reports of rare heart problems in young people immunized with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines.
The reports pertain to conditions called myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle; and pericarditis, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart. Most of the cases were mild, with symptoms such as fatigue, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat that go away quickly. The agency is tracking nearly 800 reports, though not all of them have definitely been linked to the vaccines.
The CDC advisors meeting comes as the Biden government publicly recognizes it expects to miss its goal of partially immunizing 70 percent of Americans by July 4th.
Experts have said that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk of potential problems, but they should reopen this debate, especially for teenagers and young adults.
More than half of heart problems were reported in Americans ages 12 to 24, while that age group accounted for only 9 percent of the millions of doses given. The numbers are higher than one would expect for this age.
As of May 31, 216 people had developed myocarditis or pericarditis after a dose of either vaccine and 573 after the second dose. While most of the cases were mild, 15 patients remained in hospitals at this point. The second dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been linked to approximately twice as many cases as the second dose of Moderna’s vaccine.
“We look forward to more clarity about the potential risk of myocarditis after mRNA vaccines in order to increase vaccination confidence and rates,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Chair of the Committee on Infectious Diseases at the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Recommendations from CDC advisors after Wednesday’s meeting may also influence decisions about vaccinating children under 12 if vaccines are available for that age group. Some experts have questioned whether the benefits to children outweigh the potential risks given the low likelihood of serious illness in young children.
The CDC strongly recommends Covid-19 vaccines for Americans 12 and older. The agency reported this month that Covid-19-related hospitalizations among teenagers in the United States were about three times higher than influenza-related hospitalizations for the past three flu seasons.
By June 10, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 17,000 children in 24 states had been hospitalized for Covid-19 and 330 children had died.