A study by a peer-reviewed publication of cardiologists warns that the Pfizer laboratory’s vaccine has a high risk of causing myocarditis or heart inflammation in adolescent boys.
The warning came when the governments of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany decided to extend vaccination to young people over 12, reports the Daily Mail.
The publication by Jama Cardiology states that in a “case series of 15 children who were hospitalized with myocarditis after receipt of the BNT162b2 messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccine for 1 to 5 days, boys were most often affected after the second vaccine dose, 3 patients had ventricular systolic dysfunction, and 12 patients had late gadolinium enhancement on cardiac magnetic resonance imaging.”
Of the 15 children hospitalized with varying degrees of inflammation in the heart, 14 were male, and only one was female.
The patients were discharged five days later when the symptoms disappeared.
While no mortality or severe cases were recorded, the study concludes, “COVID-19 vaccine-associated myocarditis may have a benign short-term course in children; however, the long-term risks remain unknown.”
Patient characteristics and symptoms
The hospitalized children were less than 19 years old. The symptoms began 1 to 6 days after receiving the second dose and included chest pain, fever, myalgia, headache, and troponin levels, a protein used to detect cardiac lesions that were elevated in all patients when admitted.
In severe cases, myocarditis requires admission to intensive care and can also lead to death.
What experts recommend
Echoing the study results, experts in the United Kingdom recommend waiting for further studies on the long-term effects of the experimental vaccine in adolescents, especially since this is a low-risk group.
Professor Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University and a former government advisor, said that “the myocarditis risk does seem to be higher in boys but these are very small numbers to shape a policy around.”
Dr. Dingwal said it would be best to “waiting to see what emerges from the U.S. before making any wider recommendations for UK children.”
Professor Helen Bedford, a child health expert at the Institute for Children’s Health at University College London Great Ormond Street, wondered whether “the real issue here is whether we should be vaccinating children at all.”
“Children are at very small risk of COVID so the question is who would benefit if they are vaccinated? We already have very high vaccine uptake among adults, much higher than the U.S. and Canada,” Dr. Bedford said.
Dr. Ruchi Sinha, a pediatrician at Imperial College London, opined that vaccination could be considered for adolescents with diabetes or any preexisting condition.
“We should offer it to vulnerable children but I don’t think that currently, the way it stands, vaccine roll-out to all of them is the way forward,” the pediatrician commented.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, questioned even more harshly the decision to vaccinate children with so little data and knowing that this group of people has already developed immunity to the disease.
“My concerns are why are we vaccinating an age group that has already been infected and recovered. Is it necessary? Do we know enough about potential side effects in teenagers that have already been infected?”
What the governments are doing
Despite recommendations against vaccination in children and adolescents, the president of France, Emanuel Macron, announced that it would be mandatory for children between 12 and 17 to show proof of vaccination to return to classes at the end of September.
On August 2, German Health Minister Jens Spahn stated that “everybody who wants can get vaccinated in the summer — we have enough vaccines for all age groups.”
“Therefore, children and teenagers … can decide to get vaccinated after a medical consultation and thus protect themselves and others,” Spahn assured.
Similarly, the British government stated that children between the ages of 16 and 17 would be ‘invited’ to receive the first dose of the vaccine before school starts in September.
According to a report by Politico, at least 16 countries in the European Union have started vaccinating teenagers, including Sweden, Finland, Portugal, among others. However, only France seems to make it compulsory, while it is optional for now in the other countries.