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Myocarditis: COVID-19 vaccines are safer than infection

A hand reaching out to take a paper heart from another hand.

April 29, 2022—You may have heard that heart complications are a rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccines. But you might not have heard the whole story—or the latest scientific updates. For example: A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that COVID-19 is more likely to cause heart problems than the vaccine.

Heart problems after vaccines are rare

In rare cases, two heart problems—myocarditis and pericarditis—have been reported after vaccination for COVID-19. 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.

Vaccine-related heart problems are most common among men and boys between the ages of 12 and 39. They've also been reported more often after the second dose than the first.

Most people who had these problems got well quickly with medicine and rest.

You may be able to lower your risk by waiting a longer time between the first and second shots. Some people may choose to wait as long as eight weeks. Your doctor can help you decide what timing is best for you.

Heart problems after COVID-19

If you are worried about myocarditis, the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best way to protect yourself. That’s because COVID-19 can cause myocarditis too. Viruses are a common cause of the condition.

People who catch COVID-19 are nearly 16 times as likely to get myocarditis as people who do not get the virus.

Myocarditis and pericarditis are not the only heart complications linked to COVID-19. The coronavirus is linked to serious heart problems, including heart attack and heart failure. It can cause problems while you are sick with the virus—and even afterward.

One complication is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS). MIS is a condition involving inflammation of the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys or other organs. It can affect children and adults with COVID-19.

Vaccines are safer than infection

In another recent CDC study, researchers compared people who were vaccinated against COVID-19 with people who got the virus. They looked at records of more than 15 million people age 5 and older from 40 different U.S. health systems.

They found that the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis was higher after catching COVID-19 than after being vaccinated. For men and women of all ages, vaccines were less likely than COVID-19 infection to cause heart complications.

That includes younger men and boys, who have the highest risk of heart complications after the vaccine. The researchers found that:

  • Out of every 100,000 boys ages 5 to 11 who had COVID-19, about 12 to 17 had heart complications after getting COVID-19. But the rate of heart problems after the vaccine was too low to compare.
  • Boys ages 12 to 17 were 2 to 6 times as likely to have heart complications after COVID-19 than after getting the vaccine.
  • Men ages 18 to 29 were 7 to 8 times as likely to have heart problems after infection than vaccination.

Play it safe

When it comes to COVID-19, the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. It's the best choice to help you or your child avoid getting very sick from the virus.

Still not sure? Talk to your doctor about your concerns. They can help you understand your risks and make the choice that's right for you. And you can learn more about how COVID-19 may affect your health in our Coronavirus health topic center.

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