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Are Rare Cases Of Myocarditis Linked To Pfizer, Moderna Covid-19 Vaccines?

There are now reports of 62 people in Israel and 14 people in the U.S. military being diagnosed with myocarditis after receiving Covid-19 mRNA vaccines. Does this necessarily mean that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were the cause? Well, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

Myocarditis is not the opposite of your-o-carditis but instead is a general term for inflammation of the heart muscles. The prefix “myo” stands for muscle, “card” stands for heart, and “-itis” stands for inflammation. According to The Times of Israel, Israel has had six people diagnosed with myocarditis after the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 mRNA vaccine and 56 after the second dose. Two of the people have died, a 22-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man. The remaining 60 are reportedly in good condition after being treated in and discharged from the hospital. Given that over five million people have received the vaccine in Israel to date, these numbers would translate to myocarditis diagnoses in only one out of every 100,000 who received the second dose of the . That’s just 0.001% if you run the numbers on your abacus. Since most of the myocarditis cases have been in men below the age of 30, this number bumps up to one out of every 20,000 for those who are 16 to 30 years old.

Meanwhile, as Patricia Kime reported for Military.com, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is looking further into the 14 such cases among U.S. military personnel, 13 of whom were diagnosed with myocarditis following their second dose of the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine. The one case of mycoarditis after the first dose was a person who had tested positive for Covid-19 three months prior. Among the military cases, 11 had received the Moderna Covid-19 mRNA vaccine, while three got the Pfizer/BioNTech one. With over 2.7 million military personnel having already received Covid-19 vaccines, myocarditis diagnoses comprise only 0.000516% of those vaccinated.

Of course, just because something happens after an event doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are linked. For example, people have surely used the bathroom sometime after watching the reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. This alone doesn’t necessarily mean that the show itself will actually lead to toilet trips. Similarly, researchers will have to determine whether the myocarditis diagnoses were coincidental or indeed linked to vaccination. This will entail going back to the cases and determine whether other possible causes of or risk factors for myocarditis were in play besides the vaccines.

Naturally, inflammation of the heart is not a good thing. If someone were to ask you which body part you would like inflamed, don’t choose the heart. In fact, don’t choose any body part and back away from the person as quickly as possible, especially if he or she is carrying a hammer. Nevertheless, of all your organs, your heart is pretty darn important. In addition to being where the groove is, your heart pumps life-sustaining oxygen-carrying blood throughout your body. Contrary to what you may hear, your heart is not made out of gold, stone, cheating, or Skittles. Instead, your heart is predominantly made out of muscle. Messing with your heart muscles can impair your heart’s blood pumping action and even eventually lead to heart failure. Plus, inflammation can interfere with the electrical system that maintains this pumping action, leading to abnormal heart rhythms, otherwise known as arrhythmias.

That’s why possible signs of myocarditis include chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid retention, which may be more easily seen in your lower extremities. As you can see, symptoms of myocarditis can be fairly non-specific. Just because you feel chest pain after dropping a hundred pound watermelon on your chest or shortness of breath after seeing mac-n-cheese doesn’t necessarily mean that you have myocarditis. However, if any of these symptoms are unexplained or persistent, call your doctor. Your heart won’t tell you, “dude, I’ve got myocarditis.” Rather, your doctor will have to perform tests to make the diagnosis, like an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, and blood tests.

While myocarditis in general is fairly rare, lots of different things can cause the condition. For example, drugs such as cocaine and certain anti-cancer, anti-seizure, and antibiotic medications can lead to myocarditis. So can carbon monoxide and radiation to the chest. Myocarditis can also be part of diseases such as lupus, Wegener’s granulomatosis, giant cell arteritis and Takayasu’s arteritis. Then there are the infectious diseases. Bacteria (e.g., staphylococcus and streptococcus), fungi (e.g., candida, aspergillus, and histoplasma), parasites (e.g., trypanosoma cruzi and toxoplasma) and, of course, viruses can be culprits. On the virus list are adenoviruses, hepatitis B and C viruses, parvoviruses, herpes simplex viruses, echoviruses, Epstein-Barr virus, rubella, HIV, and possibly, drum roll please, the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Yes, as I have covered before for Forbes, myocarditis cases have been popping up among those who have had Covid-19. The link has still not been super established. It’s not completely clear yet whether the virus itself or the immune response to the virus may cause inflammation in your heart. Knowing the answers to these questions could help shed further light on what may happen with vaccination. Of course, getting a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine is not the same as getting infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus, otherwise known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2). Repeat, the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine cannot give you Covid-19. The mRNA vaccines do not contain the whole virus and instead provides mRNA to your cells that your cells then use blueprints to make the spike proteins that stud the surface of the SARS-CoV2, making the virus look like a spiky massage ball. Just as Jennifer Aniston’s hair alone can’t star in a reunion of the TV show Friends, the spike protein alone can’t cause Covid-19. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the risk of myocarditis after vaccination would be the same as the risk of myocarditis from Covid-19.

While these myocarditis cases do merit further investigation, such news alone isn’t reason to sound alarm bells. The rates of myocarditis are still very, very, very low, and it has yet to be established whether the vaccine actually played a role in the myocarditis cases. For example, your odds of being severely injured by a toilet are about one in 10,000, based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. That doesn’t mean that you should start singing, “Do You really Want to Hurt Me,” to your porcelain throne and start going potty in the woods instead. After all, nothing in this world is completely safe. Everything that you eat or put into your body every day brings some degree of risk.

With so many people receiving Covid-19 vaccinations around the world, it wouldn’t be completely surprising to have some adverse events emerge here and there. Whenever a possible adverse event pops up, don’t press the panic button. Instead ask the following questions. Is the event actually linked to the vaccine? What is the real risk of such an event occurring? Does anyone need to take any precautions, what might they be, and who should take the precautions? Oh, and why the bleep do you have a panic button?