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Q&A: Rare heart issues after a COVID-19 shot

A teenager in a pink hoodie.

You may have heard reports that a small number of young people have had mostly mild heart issues after they got a COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring the situation closely.

Here's what you need to know:

Q. What happened?

A. So far, a small number of people have reported experiencing myocarditis or pericarditis after getting a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. This type of inflammation can happen when the body responds to infection.

Most of the heart issues were seen in teens and young adults 16 and older—and more often in young men than in young women. They've also been reported more often after the second dose than the first.

Q. How serious was it?

A. Most of these people got sick within 4 days of their second dose of the vaccine. They had mild symptoms and got well quickly with medicine and rest. Some are still hospitalized.

As a precaution, you should watch for any of these symptoms of heart inflammation in your child or yourself within a week after getting a vaccine:

  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • A fast, fluttering or pounding heartbeat.

If you notice any of these, seek medical care. And if this occurs after your first shot, CDC recommends postponing the second shot until you are fully recovered.

Q. How common is it?

A. Hundreds of millions of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine since December. By contrast, only a very small number of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported—about 8 cases per million doses among 12- to 39-year-olds. That makes these possible complications very rare, CDC reports.

Q. Are the vaccines to blame?

A. CDC experts say there is likely a connection. For now, they are continuing to monitor and investigate these cases to learn more.

Q. Should I postpone my child's vaccination?

A. No. CDC, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all still recommend vaccines for everyone 12 and older. COVID-19 can be a severe illness, even for kids and teens. Being vaccinated helps protect them. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines, visit our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 7/20/2021

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.