Officials: 'Mild' myocarditis seen in some CT young people after COVID vaccine

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DPH said at least 18 Connecticut residents between the ages of 16 and 34 have developed an inflamed heart muscle after receiving the COVID vaccine.

DPH said at least 18 Connecticut residents between the ages of 16 and 34 have developed an inflamed heart muscle after receiving the COVID vaccine.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

Connecticut has seen at least 18 cases of people age 16 to 34 who developed an inflamed heart muscle — known as myocarditis — after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials said.

Though the state’s health commissioner said all of the affected people were hospitalized, most were released after a few days.

“We don’t know if these are vaccine-related or not,” said Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health. “But we have encouraged providers to reach out and share the information with vaccine adverse events reporting system, which they have done.”

Gifford said one of the afflicted people remains hospitalized, but most cases have been “mild.”

As of Sunday, the state reported that 361,889 Connecticut residents between the ages of 16 and 34 had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 471,427 in that age group had received at least one dose.

On Tuesday, the state reported that a total of 181 people tested positive for COVID for a daily positivity rate of 1.45 percent. Two more people were hospitalized with the illness for a total of 129 and there were two additional deaths.

As COVID numbers in the state continue to stabilize, many credit vaccinations. That’s why, despite the warning about myocarditis, most experts encouraged people to continue getting vaccinated, saying the possible risks from the vaccine are much lower than the effects of COVID.

Across the Nuvance Health system — which includes Norwalk, Danbury, New Milford and Sharon hospitals — there have been six cases of patients, all younger than 30, who had myocarditis after vaccination, according to Dr. Mark Warshofsky.

“All of these cases were considered mild and self-limited,” Warshofsky, vice president and system chairman of the Nuvance Health Heart and Vascular Institute, said in an emailed statement.

“The number and severity of cases is being tracked by the CDC and the state of Connecticut to gain more information. At this time, there is no recommendation to alter the vaccination regimen for adolescents and young adults.”

At Stamford Hospital, there have been no known cases of myocarditis after vaccination, said Dr. Joonun (Chris) Choi, the hospital’s director of non-invasive cardiology. However, Choi said he sees cases of the condition every year, mostly in people who have recently recovered from a viral illness, such as flu or even COVID.

“We really haven’t figured out why people get it,” Choi said. “To my understanding, (the number of cases being seen now) is no more than would be expected within the general population.”

Dr. Aneesh Tolat, Hartford HealthCare’s director of ventricular tachycardia ablation, agreed.

“It can be in people who have had COVID,” he said. “It can be in people who have had colds. It can be in people who have had the flu.”

He said he’s not aware of any myocarditis cases in recently vaccinated people within his health system.

“The numbers of care are not alarmingly high,” Tolat said. “There’s always going to be people with myocarditis with or without the vaccine.”

Choi said the risks of getting myocarditis with the COVID vaccine are “very low.”

“You’re much less likely to get myocarditis from COVID vaccine than from COVID itself,” he said.

Gifford said Connecticut health care providers were asked to look for cases of myocarditis after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory last week on the condition, and its occurrence in recently vaccinated young people.

The May 17 advisory did not indicate how many cases of myocarditis had occurred in vaccinated people, nor did it provide a specific age range, other than to say it was happening “predominantly in adolescents and young adults.”

The CDC also stated that myocarditis happened more often in males than females, and that it was more likely after the second dose of vaccine.

The symptoms — which can include abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, or chest pain — usually happened within four days of vaccination, the CDC said.

Myocarditis cases are not typically reported to DPH, according to Maura Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the agency.

She said though there hasn’t been an official link between the COVID-19 vaccine and myocarditis, state and national health authorities are continuing to monitor incidents of myocarditis in vaccinated people.

“In the meantime, DPH is advising health care providers to consider myocarditis in an evaluation of patients who present with chest pain after vaccination and report any cases to the (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System),” Fitzgerald said. “Both the CDC and DPH continue to strongly recommend the COVID-19 vaccination for anyone 12 years of age and older as the best protection against the COVID-19 virus.”

The news about the myocarditis cases comes as COVID vaccines are getting authorized for use in younger people. Earlier this month, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in children 12 to 15 years old. On Tuesday, Moderna announced that its vaccine had shown to be effective in kids as young as 12, opening the possibility its vaccine might soon be a second option for young people.

“We are encouraged that mRNA-1273 was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in adolescents. It is particularly exciting to see that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine can prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said in a news release. “We will submit these results to the U.S. FDA and regulators globally in early June and request authorization. We remain committed to doing our part to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.”