As federal health authorities investigate whether two COVID-19 vaccines could be linked to rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents, parents should put the potential risk in perspective with that of contracting the disease, says one of the nation’s leading pediatric cardiologists. .
“The incidents of this are small compared to the number of people who get vaccinated,” said Dr. Juan C. Alejos, medical director of UCLA Health’s pediatric cardiomyopathy and heart transplant program. The street. “It’s so rare that we forget how bad COVID can be.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the rare potential side effect that has sent hundreds of teens and young adults to the hospital. Side effect was only found in relation to Pfizer (PFE) – Get report and Modern (MRNA) – Get report vaccines.
But Alejos said the cases of cardiac inflammation that have been seen in connection with vaccines so far appear relatively “mild.”
Alejos is director and founder of the pediatric pulmonary hypertension program at UCLA Health, is a clinical professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, and is president and founder of the nonprofit Hearts with Hope Foundation.
Here, Alejos looks at the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, two types of inflammation of the heart, and the risk of cardiovascular problems in children who have actually had COVID-19.
The following has been edited for clarity and brevity. The interview was conducted by phone on Sunday.
The street: I wanted to start by asking about myocarditis and how common it was to see it in this age group, even before the COVID 19 pandemic.
Away: Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. Usually it is not something we see routinely. But it is a known condition, which can be caused by many viruses, and at this time no one knows for sure if it is caused by vaccines. Incidents are occurring even in people who have not been vaccinated. …
In my opinion, what people need to remember is that this type of mild myocarditis and pericarditis cannot be compared to the effects that the coronavirus has had, which were far ahead of what we are seeing now that it is causing everything. this advertising.
The street: And that’s a good point, that the simple fact of contracting COVID-19 can lead to cardiovascular problems and what you are seeing now that is possibly related to vaccines is much less serious than what you may see after being infected with the new coronavirus. , Right?
The street: But many of these cases you read about in the press are teenagers who were otherwise healthy and then end up in the emergency room for treatment. The condition seems to resolve relatively quickly, but are you concerned about potential long-term problems?
Away: I have no worries; I would still be a strong advocate for vaccines, even with all this information.
The street: What about children who might have special circumstances, such as those with Down syndrome? Would this change your point of view at all?
Away: No, the patients I would be most concerned about would be immunosuppressed patients, patients who have undergone chemotherapy or have undergone a transplant, and the biggest concern for them is not the risk of a vaccine, but whether it will take hold. … and develop an immunity after their vaccination. So, not the side effects, but the effectiveness of vaccines in the immunosuppressed.
The street: At the beginning of the pandemic, we heard over and over that children weren’t really harmed by the new coronavirus, but later studies showed that some children could have a serious illness and some even died. Do you think that previous vision could bother us again and that parents will say, “Hey, I don’t think COVID will harm my child, so why do I want to take any risks with the vaccine?
Away: Unfortunately, I think you are probably right. Much of the initial publicity that COVID only affects older people is at least part of the problem of why we have a not so insignificant group of people who do not want the vaccine. They feel that there is no risk to them, but I think the data that we found later is that it affects children in different ways … (What we have seen in children) was not major lung problems, but major heart problems. .
The street: Now that kids are going back to school next year and back to organized sports, should people be aware of these COVID-related cardiovascular risks?
Away: Definitely. Many pediatric centers with patients who have tested positive for COVID, especially college and high school athletes, have had fairly rigorous follow-up to ensure there are no subsequent cardiac effects. … I think this is where we are right now. We are seeing that with patients coming from UCLA who have tested positive for COVID. Usually we would see those patients before all of this, those patients who play sports and have chest pain, but I think we can have a much lower threshold to do extensive work … to see how their heart can look. affected. . …