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Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause myocarditis?

Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP

Answer

​​​​​Compared to the potential risks of COVID-19 infection in kids, myocarditis appears to be quite rare. In fact, children are more at risk of myocarditis after multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a serious illness from COVID-19 infection.

That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all kids age 6 months and older who do not have contraindications. Your child should get the COVID-19 vaccine that is authorized for their age.

What causes myocarditis?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. It happens when the body's immune system reacts to an infection or some other trigger. In more than half of cases, no cause is identified. Symptoms can include feelings of abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, or chest pain.

Very rarely, myocarditis also has occurred in some people who have received the vaccine. In most of these people, symptoms began within a few days following receipt of the second dose of vaccine. The chance of having this occur is very low.

In the clinical trials studying the vaccine in kids 12 to 17 years, a small number of adolescents and young adults experienced mild cases of myocarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Most got better on their own or with minimal treatment and rest. And in the clinical trials of more than 3,000 children age 5 to 11, there were no reports of myocarditis from the vaccine.

The reports of myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccination were seen:

  • mostly in adolescents and young-adult males, especially those 16 years of age and older,

  • more often in males than females,

  • more often following dose 2 than dose 1, and

  • typically within 4 days after vaccination.

What we do know: COVID-19 vaccines save lives

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to study the vaccine for these younger children to see if any potential link appears. This kind of ongoing monitoring is standard with all new vaccines to make sure they are safe.

Especially with the more contagious delta and delta plus variants of COVID-19 now circulating, the risks of being unvaccinated and becoming ill with COVID-19 are far greater than any rare side effects from the vaccines. Thousands of children have been hospitalized, and hundreds have died after being infected with COVID-19. Some children who have recovered still experience lingering symptoms. In fact, becoming infected with COVID-19 itself is much more likely to cause myocarditis than the vaccine.

Remember

COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be very effective at preventing severe illness and are truly lifesaving. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to talk with your pediatrician.

More information

Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP

Yvonne (Bonnie) Maldonado, MD, FAAP, is Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity and the Taube Endowed Professor of Global Health and Infectious Diseases; Professor of Pediatrics and of Epidemiology and Population Health; Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stanford University School of Medicine and Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control and Attending Physician at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University.​

Last Updated
9/26/2022
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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