UPMC Pediatrician Explains Myocarditis

By: Kate Irwin

As more and more young people receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, some parents question if myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — may be linked to the vaccine. Dr. John Williams, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, explained there may not be a link, as the condition is seen in children without the vaccine.

Dr. John Williams

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported fewer than two dozen cases of myocarditis in teenagers and young adults who received the Pfizer vaccine and is closely monitoring these rare cases.

“Myocarditis is often associated with a number of common viruses that cause colds and intestinal infections,” said Williams. “We think the inflammation of the heart is a ‘bystander injury,’ meaning the child has an infection, the immune system is activated, which then causes irritation or inflammation of the heart. The prognosis in children with myocarditis is usually good.”

According to Williams, over 4 million teenagers in the U.S. have received the Pfizer vaccine safely, compared to the 15,000 COVID-related pediatric hospitalizations and 300+ pediatric deaths.

“Experts are looking very closely to see if myocarditis could be related to the vaccine,” explained Williams. “We see myocarditis in otherwise healthy children with common viruses, and it’s not clear if these cases are more than what we would normally see.”

In addition to protecting children from the possible complications of COVID-19, Williams stressed that vaccinating children is a step in preventing the spread of the virus to those who are most vulnerable, as well as the best way to get kids back to school and parents back to work.

Parents can go to Vaccine.upmc.com or call 844-876-2822 to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment for children ages 12 and older.