The FDA on Wednesday said it plans to add a warning to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines after a CDC advisory panel said data suggests a "likely association" between the vaccines and rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults. Despite the warning, doctors and researchers say they still strongly recommend that all Americans 12 and older get vaccinated, noting that the heart problems are uncommon and in most cases very mild.
The CDC tracked more than 1,200 cases of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, which is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. More than 800 of the cases occurred after the second dose, and 65% were linked to the Pfizer vaccine. The largest share of the cases occurred in men under the age of 24, according to the report.
Sixteen-year-old Noah Hiers was rushed to the hospital just two days after receiving his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
"I felt terrified as we were driving and Noah said it's getting worse and these chest pains are really terrible..." said Noah's mother, Tanya Hiers. "I was just praying."
Symptoms of myocarditis include chest pains, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. But despite the risks of the condition, a new CDC report estimates the vaccines could prevent 5,700 COVID-19 cases and as many as 215 hospitalizations among boys aged 12-17, noting that the benefits of vaccinating that age group "still clearly outweigh the risks."
"This experience was much better than getting COVID and much lower risk of anything long lasting occurring," Noah Hiers said.
Meanwhile, vaccine hesitancy and the Delta variant continue to drive new COVID-19 cases. In parts of southwest Missouri, COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 160%, as doctors fear an influx of summer tourism in nearby Branson. In some parts of the state, only one in four people are vaccinated.
Louie Michael and his wife Pattie, who are not vaccinated, are both now recovering from the disease.
"Get this shot now and bypass what we've been through the last two weeks — because you feel like you're going to die, it's horrible," Michael said.