Recent reports have raised concerns about an association between COVID-19 vaccines and myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly in young males. Although very few of the participants were vaccinated prior to becoming infected, as vaccines were not yet widely available, the researchers performed two analyses censoring participants at the time of the first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine and adjusting for vaccination as a time-varying covariate.
The absolute numbers of myocarditis and pericarditis were still higher than the contemporary and historical cohorts. These numbers are much larger than those reported for myocarditis after vaccines, which are generally around 40 cases per 1 million people, observed Dr. Al-Aly.
The overall results were also consistent when compared with the historical control subjects.
“What we’re seeing in our report and others is that SARS-CoV-2 can leave a sort of scar or imprint on people, and some of these conditions are likely chronic conditions,” Dr. Al-Aly said. “So you’re going to have a generation of people who will bear the scar of COVID for their lifetime and I think that requires recognition and attention, so we’re aware of the magnitude of the problem and prepared to deal with it.”
With more than 76 million COVID-19 cases in the United States, that effort will likely have to be at the federal level, similar to President Joe Biden’s recent relaunch of the “Cancer Moonshot,” he added. “We need a greater and broader recognition at the federal level to try and recognize that when you have an earthquake, you don’t just deal with the earthquake when the earth is shaking, but you also need to deal with the aftermath.”
Dr. Gibson pointed out that this was a study of predominantly males and, thus, it’s unclear if the results can be extended to females. Nevertheless, he added, “long COVID may include outcomes beyond the central nervous system and we should educate patients about the risk of late cardiovascular outcomes.”
The authors noted the largely White, male cohort may limit generalizability of the findings. Other limitations include the possibility that some people may have had COVID-19 but were not tested, the datasets lacked information on cause of death, and possible residual confounding not accounted for in the adjusted analyses.
The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and two American Society of Nephrology and Kidney Cure fellowship awards. The authors declared no competing interests. Dr. Gibson reports having no relevant conflicts of interest.
A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.