The news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a link between coronavirus vaccines and heart inflammation threatens the pace of vaccinations.
Yet, any slowdown will probably be nowhere as severe as the one associated with the pause that the CDC imposed on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 13 after data linked it to blood clots. The CDC lifted the pause 10 days later.
The panel that advises the CDC on vaccines, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, announced that it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday to examine cases of myocarditis and pericarditis that may be linked to both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Thus far, the CDC has identified 226 cases among those aged 12-24. Although it’s a small number compared to the more than 130 million people who have been fully inoculated with those vaccines, it is higher than what the CDC expected. Generally, in the absence of vaccinations, there would be fewer than 100 cases of heart inflammation among that population.
Dr. Minoj Jain said the news would slow down the rate of vaccination because it would give people another reason to avoid getting the vaccine.
“I think people are often looking for an excuse to not get vaccinated. This will add to that,” said Jain, an infectious disease physician at the Rollins School of Public Health. “My concern is that people don’t weigh their risks appropriately.”
Pam Chatman, the founder of Boss Lady Workforce Transportation, a shuttle service that provides residents in the Mississippi Delta with transportation to their places of employment, worried that the effect would be much the same as the pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"This will add more hesitancy," Chatman said.
In February, she launched the Vaccine Transportation Initiatives, which partners her shuttles with healthcare providers to provide the vaccine to people who live in remote areas. She said she has seen firsthand what happened after the Johnson & Johnson pause.
“We haven’t seen a large influx of people seeking the vaccines since [the J&J] announcement,” she said.
On April 11, two days after the Johnson & Johnson vaccines were paused, the number of people receiving a vaccine peaked at just under 3.4 million, according to the CDC. Since then, the rate of vaccination has been in an almost uninterrupted rate of decline, falling to a daily rate of under 1 million.
Whether that decline was due to the Johnson & Johnson pause or other factors remains unclear. It is possible that those most eager to get a vaccine peaked at roughly the same time.
The CDC has not recommended that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine be put on hold this time, thus far. But it is possible that the ACIP will recommend a pause for people under age 30.
Some officials are calling for a loosening of vaccine requirements for young adults. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, who is also a physician, called on Gov. Larry Hogan to end a vaccine mandate for students attending colleges and universities in the state.
The risk of severe COVID-19 or death from the disease is small for those between the ages of 10 and 29, with that age group accounting for under 7% of hospitalizations from COVID-19 and less than 1% of deaths.
But Jain said that a pause might not be a good idea since there are risks for young people infected with the virus.
"Having heart inflammation from vaccination is significantly lower than having the infection and then having heart inflammation," Jain said.
A study from July 2020 of 100 patients of all ages recovering from COVID-19 found that 60% had some form of myocarditis. A study of 26 college athletes recovering from COVID-19 found that four had signs of heart inflammation.
Additionally, forgoing a pause might make a resulting slowdown in vaccinations less severe.
“Without a pause, it might make it seem less urgent in people’s minds,” said Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and the director of the Prevention and Public Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco.
Still, Rutherford worried that the possible link between the vaccine and heart inflammation would further reduce the rate of vaccination.
The risk of getting heart inflammation from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is less than 0.0002%.
The risk of getting a blood clot from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was similarly small, but that didn’t stop public confidence in the vaccine from plummeting.
A YouGov poll that surveyed people before and after the CDC paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine found that those saying it was safe plunged from 52% to 37%, while those saying it was somewhat or very unsafe rose from 26% to 39%.
Washington Examiner Videos
Original Author: David Hogberg
Original Location: Heart inflammation cases threaten coronavirus vaccination pace