CLAIM: Myocarditis causes irreversible damage to the heart. Within five years of diagnosis, the death rate from myocarditis is 50%.
THE FACTS: Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, is a mild, temporary condition in the vast majority of cases, according to experts. Some social media users have been falsely claiming otherwise in recent weeks by misrepresenting the scientific literature on the condition.
“Myocarditis is irreversible. Once the heart muscle is damaged, it cannot be repaired by the body,” states one widely shared Facebook post. “Myocarditis has a 20% fatality rate after 2 years and a 50% fatality rate after 5 years,” it continues. The Facebook post shows a screenshot of a blog post written by Edward Hendrie that included false claims about risks associated with COVID-19 vaccines.
Hendrie told The Associated Press his statistics around myocarditis came from an academic article co-authored by Dr. Michael Kang, health sciences assistant clinical professor at University of California Riverside School of Medicine. Kang, contacted by the AP, said Hendrie was misrepresenting the figures used in his article, which was published in October 2017, well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was written “as a general review of viral myocarditis and does not pertain to vaccine induced myocarditis,” Kang said. With regards to the myocarditis death rate, Kang said his article was referencing the most severe forms of myocarditis. Those numbers pertain to smaller, older studies, in which patients had extreme forms of the disease, “not what we are seeing with the covid19 vaccine,” Kang said in an email.
A majority of individuals with myocarditis — about 70% — have no symptoms or mild symptoms that resolve completely, said Dr. Eric Adler, professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine who specializes in advanced heart failure.
“The majority of myocarditis is mild and indeed reversible,” Adler said. Dr. Leslie Cooper, chair of the Mayo Clinic Department of Cardiovascular Medicine in Florida, agreed.
“Myocarditis by definition is inflammation, which is usually reversible,” Cooper said.
“Myocarditis can lead to ‘irreversible’ scarring but only in a minority of overall cases,” Cooper added.
But Adler said there are treatment options that can help recover heart tissue even in severe cases. Very rarely, teens and young adults given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have experienced myocarditis. The condition has mostly affected young men and teen boys, and they tend to recover quickly. After intense scrutiny, U.S. health authorities concluded the vaccine’s benefits outweigh that small risk, the AP reported.
“The facts are clear: this is an extremely rare side effect, and only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination. Importantly, for the young people who do, most cases are mild, and individuals recover often on their own or with minimal treatment,” read a statement issued last June by top U.S. government health officials, medical organizations, laboratory and hospital associations.
— Associated Press writer Terrence Fraser in New York contributed this report.