The Pfizer vaccine, teenagers and myocarditis

10 August 2021
What was claimed

A CDC study on 12 to 17 year-olds who got the Pfizer vaccine found 397 reports of heart inflammation.

Our verdict

It’s true 397 cases of myocarditis were reported after around 8.9 million adolescents who got the vaccine.

What was claimed

There were 14 deaths in children aged 12 to 17 who had the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

Our verdict

14 deaths were reported in the US after the Pfizer vaccine but the CDC concluded none were caused by the vaccine.

What was claimed

In children between 12 and 17 that had the Pfizer vaccine, there were 9,246 adverse reactions within a period of a month.

Our verdict

That was how many reports were made up to July 2021, over more than six months, out of 8.9 million children who were vaccinated.

A video on Facebook with thousands of views makes a number of claims about children and the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine.

A voice in the video says: “In children between the age of 12 to 17 year old that took the Pfizer vaccine, we have 9,246 adverse reactions to the Pfizer vaccine…863 of those were serious events and we had 14 deaths with 397 reports of myocarditis.”

Based on these figures, the voice says: “I think you’ll agree that the Pfizer vaccine, for children, is an absolute disaster.”

This is misleading because it lacks context. The figures are from a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about reported reactions after the Pfizer vaccine, but not necessarily to the Pfizer vaccine.

How many reports are there?

The CDC has said that as of 16 July 2021, 8.9 million children aged between 12 and 17 had received the Pfizer Covid vaccine. It’s true that in that time there were also 9,246 reports to VAERS, the US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (to which members of the public can report problems that occur after vaccination, to act as an early-warning system in case some of those problems are being caused by vaccines). Reports were generated for about 1 in 1,000 vaccinations. 

About 91% of these were for “nonserious adverse events”, such as dizziness or fainting. Serious events are classed as anything where the person was hospitalised or their hospitalisation was prolonged, or they experienced life-threatening illness, permanent disability and death.

Of those 9,246 reports, 397 or 4% were for myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) or myopericarditis (inflamed heart muscle and pericardium, the fibrous sac around the heart). Both can be caused by a number of different things, and although myocarditis in the young is rare, it’s not unheard of in children and we don’t know how many of these cases reported to VAERS, if any, were caused by the vaccine.

The CDC said: “Among the serious reports, myocarditis and other conditions that might be associated with myocarditis were among the most common terms reported; however, these terms did not account for a large proportion of VAERS reports overall. 

“No reports of death to VAERS were determined to be the result of myocarditis.”

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the government’s Commission on Human Medicines assessed the reports of myocarditis following Covid-19 vaccination. Guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recently been updated recommending the Pfizer vaccine to those aged 16 or older.

The MHRA assessment recommended that healthcare professionals and vaccinated people be alert to the symptoms of myocarditis, which are new onset of chest pain, shortness of breath or symptoms of arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat).

The JCVI also notes that in adults in Israel and the US, “the reported cases of myocarditis following mRNA vaccination are of a ‘milder phenotype’ with the vast majority of persons recovering swiftly from the acute episode, compared to more typical cases of myocarditis”.

How many children died?

Fourteen deaths were reported to VAERS following vaccination and the CDC reviewed these as part of the study. As the video claims, four were in those under 15, and 10 were in those aged 16 to 17. The CDC said: “impressions regarding cause of death were pulmonary embolism (two), suicide (two), intracranial hemorrhage (two), heart failure (one), hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and disseminated Mycobacterium chelonae infection (one), and unknown or pending further records (six).”

As we’ve said before, we don’t know that VAERS reported symptoms were caused by the vaccine. The CDC concluded that the causes of death didn’t suggest they were due to the vaccinations, but that the exact causes of deaths for some of those who died is pending extra information.

It’s true that myocarditis does seem to be a “rare serious adverse event associated with receipt of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines” but it has not led to any confirmed deaths in children. Because these serious reports were so rare, the CDC still recommends that children aged 12 and over in the USA should get the vaccine to help protect against Covid-19.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because the numbers are correct, but they were reported after vaccination, and weren’t necessarily because of it.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.