Teen heart risk from COVID-19 far exceeds that of vaccination, study says

Teens have a far greater risk of heart inflammation from COVID-19 than from the vaccines that protect against it, new research shows.

“Comparative risk can complicate decisions for parents in such highly charged health debates,” said lead author Mendel Singer, vice chair for education at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

“But our study shows that for parents concerned for their teens about myocarditis/pericarditis [heart inflammation], the safer choice is vaccination,” he said in a university news release.

Singer and his colleagues compared health records of 7,300 girls and 6,800 boys age 12-17 nationwide who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States to the same number in that age group who had adverse events after receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

The risk of heart inflammation — myocarditis or pericarditis — among teen girls with COVID-19 was 21 times higher than their combined risk after first and second doses of an mRNA vaccine.

Among teen boys, the risk of heart inflammation was nearly six times higher from COVID-19 than from vaccination, according to findings published this week in the preprint server medRxiv. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

“Even with our calculations made to qualify possible gaps in the data from this large dataset, our findings still point to a higher risk of myocarditis/pericarditis among teens who get COVID-19,” said study co-author Dr. David Kaelber, a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics. He pointed out he’s also a concerned father.

“Based on our findings, on my daughter’s 12th birthday, we went to get her a COVID-19 vaccination to be sure she is protected, and to protect other members of our family,” Kaelber said. “With the highly contagious Delta variant going around, and the new school year around the corner, this is a good time for parents to be reassured that vaccination is safer for their kids than getting COVID-19.”

Co-author Dr. Ira Taub, a pediatric cardiologist at Akron Children’s Hospital Center in Ohio, said concerned parents often turn to him for vaccine guidance. He responded with a warning.

“There are other consequences from getting COVID-19, including the risk that teens can carry the disease to vulnerable family members,” Taub noted. “I emphasize as well that vaccination is safer than getting COVID-19.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens.

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