What are the risks of myocarditis or pericarditis with COVID vaccines?

What is myocarditis and pericarditis?

Myocarditis is a rare condition characterized by inflammation of the heart muscle, which can lead to damage and weakening of the heart. Pericarditis is similar, but it affects the thin, fluid-filled sac that surrounds the heart. Symptoms can include chest pain, breathing problems, fevers, and fatigue. Most cases are mild and resolve with rest and supportive care, but some are more severe and can cause serious heart damage and even death. 

Who is at risk of myocarditis?

Myocarditis and pericarditis is most common in younger people and men. Both conditions occur at a very low rate in the general population, somewhere around 10 to 20 cases per 100,000 people. 

What is the chance of getting myocarditis after COVID infection?

In general, viral infection and autoimmune disease are among the most common identifiable causes. COVID-19 infection is associated with a risk of myocarditis 16 times higher than those who do not get COVID-19. 

What is the chance of getting myocarditis after the COVID vaccine?

Several months after COVID vaccines were approved, surveillance systems began to detect a slightly increased incidence of myocarditis and pericarditis. It was most common in young men within 2 to 5 days of getting an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). Most cases occurred after the second dose. According to the most recent data, for every 1 million fully vaccinated individuals, there are about 5-12 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis above the normal rate. Among young males aged 12-29, there are 60-70 cases above normal per 1 million vaccinated people. The exact reason is not well understood yet. Almost all of these cases of vaccine-related myocarditis are mild and resolve spontaneously with rest and supportive care. 

Is the COVID vaccine worth the risk?

Yes! Experts still agree that getting a COVID vaccine is the best choice for protecting your health. Even though there is a small chance of getting myocarditis after COVID vaccination, it is much smaller than the chance of hospitalization or death from COVID infection

Last update: Nov 3, 2021 3:30pm ET

Science review: SGB, ERS