An expert recommends that parents avoid the last booster vaccine for healthy children

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There is growing concern among some pediatricians about the latest Covid booster vaccine. The reason: A rare side effect that causes inflammation of the heart, and early surveillance shows it affects young, healthy boys at a higher rate.

“I think it’s important that all patients and families are aware of potential side effects,” says Dr. Jennifer Li, a pediatric cardiologist at Duke Health. She has seen young patients develop heart problems due to Covid and vaccines.

Still, Li supports getting the latest booster: “Personally, I feel the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

The risk making headlines is myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. It’s rare, but appears to be more frequent with boosters, especially the newer bivalent vaccine targeting the newest strain of the Omicron variant. The initial doses of the Covid vaccine and the first booster were monovalent – ​​they contained one strain or component of the virus. The new boosters from Pfizer and Moderna are bivalents, which contain two strains or components of the virus.

Li participated in a national study that compiled data on who got myocarditis or pericarditis from the vaccine. “Most people were male, in their late teens and usually got it after the second dose,” Li says of the study’s results.

WRAL Investigates found studies that confirm this, one finding a disproportionate number of cases of myocarditis in men, especially among teenagers. Another went a step further, saying Moderna vaccines pose the greatest risk to young men.

“I think this is confusing to the general public,” says Dr. Paul Offit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He has been a voting member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee since 2017.

Asked if he would give the bivalent vaccine to his children, Offit quickly replied: “No.”

Offit points to three groups that MUST get the boosters – the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with high-risk medical conditions.

“Healthy kids don’t need a booster shot, assuming they’ve had three shots of a vaccine so far, or two shots and a natural infection,” Offit told the families in his care.

That rings truer for parents of boys, says Offit. “It remains unclear why boys — particularly after the second dose, particularly within 7 days of the second dose — are more likely to get myocarditis, but this is a fact.”

A fact that Offit says parents need to consider before registering their child for bivalent reinforcement.

“I think if a vaccine is clearly a benefit, then it’s a risk worth taking, but if vaccines are not clearly a benefit, then the risk, no matter how small or transient or self-resolving, is still a risk. . not worth it,” he told WRAL Investigates.

Li’s research shows that most people with vaccine-induced myocarditis see their symptoms disappear in a matter of days. However, full recovery for many can take months. That means no physical activity, which is a scary proposition for parents of young people who play sports.

However, in the big picture, Li thinks the risks of side effects from the vaccine are still better than getting Covid. “The risks are very, very small and the benefits are much greater, so I recommend it,” she said. “If a child contracts Covid, the risk of contracting myocarditis is six times greater when contracting Covid than when receiving a second dose of the vaccine.”

Offit is not so sure if this is the case for young people who have already received their initial doses plus a booster or a natural infection.

Both doctors agree that there is much more to learn about the long-term impacts of vaccine-related myocarditis and why some people seem more susceptible to the risk. Currently, there are several studies in progress. WRAL Investigates is tracking them and will keep parents informed as more information is released.