Higher risk of heart complications from Covid-19 than vaccines, study reaffirms

Publicação: 9 de February de 2022

Infections caused by Covid-19 are more likely to trigger rare cardiovascular complications such as inflammation of the heart and irregular heartbeat than vaccines

Study compared risks of myocarditis, pericarditis, and cardiac arrhythmia after first and second dose of AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines with coronavirus infections

Article recently published in the scientific journal Nature entitled Risks of myocarditis, pericarditis, and cardiac arrhythmias associated with COVID-19 vaccination or SARS-CoV-2 infection reaffirms what is already well understood with other vaccines: the benefits outweigh the adverse events. The work of Dr. Martina Patone and colleagues clearly and judiciously report that vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 in adults was associated with a minor increase in the risk of myocarditis within one week of receiving the first vaccine dose of both adenovirus and mRNA, and after the second dose of both mRNA vaccines. On the other hand, SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with a substantial increase in the risk of hospitalization or death from myocarditis, pericarditis, and arrhythmia.

For the study, the scientists analyzed data from about 38 million vaccinated people. Conclusions were obtained by evaluating rates of hospitalization or death from the conditions within 28 days of vaccination or a positive PCR test for individuals aged 16 years and older and vaccinated between December 1, 2020, and August 24th, 2021. The researchers estimate one to ten extra myocarditis events in a million people vaccinated with a first or second dose and 40 extra cases in a million people infected with Covid-19.

Dr. Dorcas Lamounier Costa, pediatrician and professor in the area of Pediatrics at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI), Brazil, points out that this study exemplifies the role of science when doubts arise. For her, the group, based on an adequate methodology and careful analysis of the data, brought valuable information, without biases of ideological interpretations, which contribute to the demystification of the post-vaccination disease. “Unfortunately, we have had brutal propaganda against vaccination, and this brought skepticism and doubts to the population. Few medical advances have had as big an impact on people’s lives as vaccines. Dozens of these products are available to millions of people of all ages in all parts of the world and the result is always an improvement in the quality of life, an increase in life expectancy,” highlights Dr. Costa.

According to the epidemiologist, even though the risks of neurological and cardiac complications after the first doses of vaccines are rare, doctors should be aware of these unwanted adverse effects, and adequately inform the population, without, however, increasing the vaccine panic that we have seen in the country.

The researcher also says that vaccines are undoubtedly one of the most successful public health measures to prevent diseases, save lives and reduce sequelae. “Diseases that were once quite common have become rare in the post-vaccination world. Hundreds of millions of lives were saved at their expense, which is the most profitable investment known to humanity,” she points out, noting that, on the one hand, vaccines can increase life expectancy, reduce the chance of sequelae, eradicate certain diseases, bring social and economic benefits, on the other hand, can cause adverse events. “However, the risks of serious complications caused by them are much lower than those of the diseases they protect,” she adds. Dr. Costa emphasizes that we must be cautious when contraindicating vaccinations due to the risk of adverse events, as unimmunized people are at greater risk of getting sick and having the same feared complications, at a higher incidence, in addition to contributing to the spread of the disease in the community.

Another study published by the same group of researchers had already identified and quantified various rare neurological adverse events that are specific for the ChAdOx1nCoV-19 and BNT162b2, vaccines, as well as for SARS-CoV-2 infection, but also concluded that the risks of neurological adverse events after SARS-CoV-2 infection are much greater than those associated with vaccines, highlighting the benefits of ongoing vaccination programs.

Risk/benefit of the vaccine is highly favorable, document shows

The Ministry of Health’s epidemiological bulletin on the new coronavirus, released in November 2021, shows that 90 cases of adverse effects were identified with some mention of myocarditis or pericarditis. Among these cases, seven deaths were recorded. None of these deaths, however, were proven to have been caused by vaccine-related myocarditis. In September, the Department of Immunization and Communicable Diseases of the Health Surveillance Secretariat (SVS) of the Ministry of Health, published a technical note on the cases and showed that the risk/benefit of the vaccine is highly favorable. According to the document, episodes of myocarditis/pericarditis, probably associated with the vaccine, were mildly and had a good clinical evolution.

Even in the face of all this information, parents still fear to immunize their children. According to Dr. Costa, the atmosphere of distrust about the benefits of vaccines, and the anxiety associated with adverse events have contributed to poorly informed or malicious groups gaining space in an inhumane anti-vaccine campaign. “We live in a moment of unparalleled information disorder in our history: lack of information, false information and malicious information. The first two are the most frequent and can be fought with valid information, whether formal, transmitted by scientists, health professionals, or informal, transmitted by the well-informed lay population, who believe in immunizations,” she points out.

The pediatrician draws attention to the importance of disseminating true information so that people, in possession of this knowledge, can make better choices (choosing to vaccinate, in this case). “The anti-vaccine groups, executioners of malicious information, so acclaimed in the media as fake news must be fought by justice. I don’t understand the anti-vaccination groups because they don’t rely on any information. They are different from people who do not know the benefits of vaccines and therefore do not bring their children to take them. These people can receive the correct information and change their minds. They are also different from people who have been given false information, and who pass on these false ideas to others without the intention of causing harm. These may also change their minds if given adequate information. Anti-vaccine groups spread false information, deliberately created to harm a person, a social group, an organization, or a country. I can’t understand why someone would do that,” says Dr. Costa, outraged.

Asked how to counter-argument, the researcher reinforces that good information is needed. “That’s what we’re doing here. Speaking clearly and honestly about vaccine’s benefits (huge) and risks (rare). Let us disclose how many lives were saved, how many sequels were avoided with vaccines. We will not allow this precious information to be obscured by the report of rare post-vaccination complications. For those who disseminate malicious information, there is no counterargument, but there must be justice,” she says. As an infectious disease physician, epidemiologist, pediatrician, researcher, teacher, mother and grandmother, Dr. Costa is categorical in reverberating that every child has the right to be vaccinated and for this, parents and guardians need to become aware of the great benefits and the rare adverse events. “Vaccinated children will be better protected against the severe and lethal disease; they will contribute to breaking the chain of transmission of Sars-Cov-2 and will be at much less risk of complications than if they would have if contracted the natural disease. Vaccinate your children when their time comes. Vaccinate, they deserve it!” she begs.