Heart failure following a Covid-19 vaccination may be a possible but rare side effect. Research data from a recent study suggests an extremely rare risk of heart inflammation, including myocarditis, pericarditis, and tachycardia, following Covid-19 vaccination. Experts are of the opinion that the risks of Covid-19 far outweigh the risks of Covid-19 vaccinations.
In one case, doctors misdiagnosed a 47-year-old man’s shortness of breath, five days after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, as being caused due to allergies and bronchitis. Only after he returned with worsening symptoms several weeks later, did they conduct further tests, revealing that the man had in fact experienced congestive heart failure.
At a glance such rare cases may seem to point towards a link between heart failure and the vaccine. However, authors of the current study state otherwise, suggesting that these are mere coincidences and that Covid-19 itself presents a much higher risk of heart failure than do Covid-19 vaccinations.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is a minor risk of heart complications, such as myocarditis, after getting the Covid-19 vaccination. If it goes untreated, myocarditis may lead to severe complications, including heart failure.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is an inflammation of the thin tissue surrounding the heart. Researchers have found that, although rare, the risk of myocarditis was higher in younger males aged 12–29 years, following a second dose of the vaccine. Research data also suggested that the risk of myocarditis may be greater from the Moderna mRNA vaccine than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. According to a 2021 research, pericarditis may occur more commonly in older adults after the first or second dose of the vaccine.
The study suggests that the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis may be lower if people keep a gap of more than 30 days between the first and second dose of the vaccine. The research also found that most people with myocarditis or pericarditis after a Covid-19 vaccine, only spent a brief period in the hospital and responded well to standard treatments. Although, the study lacks long-term follow-up.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people with heart problems to receive Covid-19 vaccinations as they have a higher risk of complications from Covid-19 than the Covid-19 vaccine. This includes people with heart disease, cardiovascular risk factors, or a history of previous heart attack or stroke.
The European Society of Cardiology recommends Covid-19 mRNA vaccination for people with cardiac problems as it is linked to a reduced risk of death among people with heart failure, and there is no evidence of an increased risk of worsening heart failure from these vaccines.
People are advised to contact a doctor if they have any symptoms of heart failure, which include shortness of breath when carrying out everyday activities, difficulty breathing when lying down, swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or stomach, and fatigue.