WA Dept. of Health says no evidence rare heart problem caused by vaccine

May 26, 2021, 5:35 PM
vaccine booster, heart...
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The Washington State Department of Health has brought the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in to look into more than a dozen cases of a rare heart problem among Washingtonians, especially younger people, who were recently vaccinated.

But state health officials insist bringing in CDC officials was out of “aggressive caution” and do not right now see any link between the vaccine and the heart complication.

“We are very, very early in this investigation, and I don’t have any certainty that this is cause-and-effect,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist during the department’s weekly briefing on Wednesday.

According to a state Department of Health press release, a “small number” of Washingtonians — the department did not specify how many at its briefing — reported myocarditis or pericarditis after getting the inoculation. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart tissue, while pericarditis refers to inflammation of the protective membrane around the heart.

Washington DOH monitoring possible rare side effect of vaccine

While most cases are mild, it can be serious — an 18-year-old in Kenmore told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show that despite being healthy his whole life, he was hospitalized with myocarditis after experiencing worrying symptoms like chest pain. He’s OK, but it could have been fatal if he had not gone to the ER.

Lindquist said they see cases of myocarditis and pericarditis every year from a variety of causes, including viral infections. So far, he observed the recent cases reported are not above the usual baseline — so this could just be a coincidence.

“Sixty percent of all older kids and adults have received the vaccine in Washington state, so it’s not uncommon that many of these that have myocarditis or pericarditis from another cause would have had a vaccine,” Lindquist said.

Still, he said the department is reaching out to providers around the state looking for reports of myocarditis or pericarditis cases or symptoms of those conditions. He noted that so far, all of the reported cases are just suspected — not confirmed.

“At the point that we got more than a dozen, I called the CDC and invited them into Washington state … and said, ‘Hey, can you come in, and let’s go through all these cases,'” Lindquist said.

Doctors still urge parents to get their kids 12 and over vaccinated.

Dr. Shireesha Dhanireddy, medical director of UW Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Clinic, said COVID-19 has still proven far more dangerous for kids across the country than any vaccine side effects.

“We’ve had over 3,700 cases of severe illness, Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome, in children, and 35 known deaths from that condition that are associated with COVID infection, not vaccinations,” she said. “So we know that COVID infection can be severe in children.”

Dr. Elizabeth Meade, a pediatrician and director of the inpatient pediatrics resident rotation at Swedish Medical Center, pointed out that COVID-19 has caused 300 deaths among children nationwide, and given other kids long-term complications with the heart, lungs, and other parts of the body.

“COVID-19 illness and its associated complications are a very real and very present threat to children. … The best way we have to protect them at this point is vaccination,” she stated.

People concerned about myocarditis and pericarditis should be on the lookout for chest pain, shortness of breath, and an abnormal heartbeat. Contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms after getting the vaccine.

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WA Dept. of Health says no evidence rare heart problem caused by vaccine