Jun 22, 2021 - Health

The rising stakes of CDC's vaccine meeting about myocarditis cases

Illustration of a Coronavirus cell in the shape of a heart symbol.
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A CDC advisory committee will meet Wednesday to evaluate the risk of heart inflammation in teens who get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Why it matters: Cases of heart inflammation are rare, but they've raised concerns among some experts and scientists — including some whose job it is to sift through those risks and recommend whether to authorize the vaccines for children younger than 12.

What they're saying: “Myocarditis is something that needs to be looked at closely because we’re likely seeing the tip of the iceberg," Michael Kurilla, a member of an FDA Advisory Committee on vaccines, said earlier this month.

Yes, but: Out of 310 million vaccine doses administered, there have been 323 confirmed cases of myocarditis or pericarditis as of June 14, according to the CDC.

  • The cases have been primarily from teens and men age 30 and younger. Symptoms were usually mild, and the overwhelming majority of patients who were hospitalized with the condition — 81% — made a full recovery.
  • Unvaccinated children and young adults are also at higher risk of getting heart inflammation and related conditions if they contract COVID-19, experts say.

The bottom line: Many observers say they don't expect the advisory committee to recommend against vaccination for teens or young adults.

  • "It may well be in the end that we stay where we are," incoming American Heart Association president Donald Lloyd-Jones told Axios.
  • The panel "will do what they did for the J&J vaccine, which is to put it in context and allow the listener to understand the concept of relative risk — that a choice not to get these vaccines is not a risk-free choice," said Paul Offit, a member of FDA's vaccine advisory panel.
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