While recent reports that inflammation of the heart muscle may be a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine in some adolescents and young adults nationwide are under review by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccination program from Utah is business as usual.
“I haven’t heard any concerns from the public about this,” Rich Lakin, director of immunization for the Utah Department of Health, told Deseret News on Monday of the disease, known as the name of myocarditis, which would occur after vaccination.
“We immunize more children aged 12 to 15 than any other state. The demand is therefore there. Last week it was around 4% for the country, we were at around 9% of that age group, ”Lakin said. Utah, which has the youngest population in the country, has now fully immunized 45.3% of residents 12 and older.
News of the possible side effect does not mean that parents should now wait to immunize their children, Lakin said. “They should continue with the vaccination. There is nothing from the CDC that says to stop vaccinating. They are studying the matter. They don’t know if it’s caused by the vaccination. “
The CDC’s Vaccine Safety Advisory Committee said on May 17 that there had been reports of myocarditis occurring after vaccination, mainly in adolescents and young adults. No details were given, but the number of cases to date has been described as “relatively few”.
Most cases appear mild, the committee said, and follow the second and last dose of the vaccine more often, usually within four days, and affect more men than women. The reporting rates of myocarditis after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, the committee said, did not differ from the expected baseline rate.
“What you’re looking at is the security system in action. At first we don’t know what we’re really seeing, ”said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health and director of epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “We have to keep an open mind until we know more.”
His advice to parents?
“The clear message is that we don’t yet know if this is a real side effect. If so, it will be very, very rare. The risks of COVID for young people are still far greater than the side effects we can even assume to see from the vaccine so far.
Pavia said if her adult children were still teenagers “and had an appointment tomorrow to get the vaccine, it wouldn’t give me any break at all.”
Myocarditis, Pavia said, is usually seen in the spring and summer, with two or three cases per month expected at the primary children’s hospital. He declined to say if any of the post-vaccination cases reported to the CDC occurred in Utah.
He said the cause is usually a virus that circulates during the warmer months, but can also result from many other sources, including a reaction to the smallpox vaccine. A person with myocarditis may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, and fever, and is likely to recover without treatment.
Utahns aged 24 and under make up more than a third of the nearly 405,000 coronavirus cases in the state, but less than 17 of the 2,292 lives lost to the virus. Health experts have said that vaccinating young residents is key to controlling this deadly disease.
“They help slow the spread. When vaccinated, it helps protect the elderly. This helps protect the immunocompromised, ”who may still be vulnerable to the virus even after being vaccinated themselves, said Lakin. “These kids play a big role in how this spreads.”
Only the two-dose Pfizer vaccine is approved in the United States for those 16 years of age and under. In Utah, all residents aged 16 or older have been eligible to be vaccinated since mid-March, and vaccines for those as young as 12 became available earlier this month after the approval of the CDC.
Lakin said vaccines are increasingly available from family physicians and pediatricians, as well as other long-standing sites, including pharmacies, local health departments and mass vaccination sites, including many are already in the process of shutting down their activities. He said teens and young adults get vaccinated at all.