Quick Reads

Are vaccines affecting your heart? No, say experts

On World Heart Day, doctors debunk rumours that Covid booster dose causes cardiovascular ailment.

Credit : Shubham Patil

Bhumika Oak | Since immunisation against COVID-19, one of the deadliest and most disruptive diseases the world has ever seen, began in early 2021, several discussions about the possible side effects of these vaccines have been trending on social media now and again. While a widely spread discussion regarding COVID booster vaccine, even amid the medical fraternity, pointed towards cardiovascular side effects, cardiologists have debunked these as rumours, calling such possibilities very rare.

Several states in India have lifted the COVID restrictions. Since India began immunisation against the disease in April 2021, four vaccines, namely Covishield, Covaxin, Corbevax and Sputnik Light have been available in India since April 2021. Multiple posts were circulated and have been seen surfacing on social media that people have been reporting cases of heart inflammation or heart attack after the COVID-booster shots. However, cardiologists maintain that the vaccines are widely safe.

Dr PK Joshi, Director and Consultant Physician Cardiologist at Niramaya Hospital in Chinchwad, said, "All vaccines are safe, that's why they are given a license for medical use. All drugs and vaccines undergo clinical trials. Occasional reactions are seen but they are very rare, like in one in lakh. In COVID-19, only the Pfizer vaccine had the higher incidences of reaction, but still, it was within permissible limits.”

Myocarditis was listed as a rare side effect of some vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty®), Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (Spikevax™), or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. However, experts around the world have argued that these heart issues are very rare and treatable and not as dangerous as COVID-19 itself.

India’s COVID-19 vaccination coverage has crossed 216.54 Crore, as reported by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on September 17, 2021. As of September 28, 2021 around 29,39,446 people were vaccinated with the shot of COVID booster dose in India.

"In India, 200 crores doses given. Abnormal reactions were reported only in 4,000, that is just 0.0002 percent. Vaccines have protected the 130 crores population from severe COVID-19," Joshi adds.

A number of international studies have demonstrated that those who have received the vaccine have a significantly lower risk of developing severe consequences caused by COVID-19. An unhealthy lifestyle (eating junk food, smoking, tobacco consumption, inordinate alcohol consumption), inadequate sleep and stress (physical and mental), on the other hand, affect the fitness of the heart commonly. In fact, research has also shown that the possibility of one getting myocarditis after getting infected with COVID-19 is much higher. Thus, vaccine might in fact save you from myocarditis by saving you from COVID.


A man getting a booster dose in Delhi in January. Photo: AFP


Dr Shailesh Vaidya, MD in Ayurveda (spine and joint) said, "I don't have any concrete info regarding booster shots causing cardiac ailments. Neither there is any study as of now in the public domain, nor even clinical experience regarding such cardiac ailments among practitioners. There may be rare coincidences of cardiac problems after a booster, which is possibly being thought of as a common adverse effect in our diverse society.”

He added, “There is a category of people who are against the idea of vaccination. Secondly, the fear factor along with over-imaginative minds become the sources of pseudo information.”

In fact, a new study from Israel found that the risk of developing myocarditis among males ages 16 to 19 years was about 1 in 15,000 after the third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation also said that the cases were rare and mild.

While medical professionals have observed that there is a rise in the number of young people suffering cardiac ailments, it has not been pinned upon the COVID vaccines.

"There have been incidences of death due to cardiac arrest in young people who were relatively fit and active in these two-three years. But was it because of COVID or COVID vaccination? It is not clear because, after the second phase of Covid in April 2021, I feel most of the population who did not come in contact during the first round got contacted in the second round and those left in the third round. So almost 95 percent have contacted Covid. So, whom to put the blame on, the disease or the vaccine is a dilemma,” Dr Tripti Pathak said.

Dr Devyani Soman (MD Pathology) said that in India the percentage of people who faced heart ailments after Covid vaccination was negligible. "Enough evidence, proofs are not available. Enough studies are not done yet. Plus, as Covid cases are quite low since last year, people are not taking the vaccine. So, it is difficult to comment,” Soman said.

However, experts do believe that there is a need for research in the field. Alessandra Kamille Mallari (MD, DPSP), a general pathologist and professor at UV Gullas College of Medicine, Cebu, Philippines, said, “Proper research needs to be done to get a specific answer."