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Myocarditis cases prompt Taiwan to suspend second dose of Pfizer vaccine for 12-17-year-olds

Taiwan has suspended administering second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT) Covid vaccine to children aged 12 to 17 years old according to the country’s health minister Chen Shih-chung, as concerns grow that the vaccine may increase the risk of myocarditis in the age group.  

He said that a panel of experts will review the data on cases of myocarditis and pericarditis. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis is an inflammation of the lining that surrounds the heart.

Media in Taiwan report that the next stage of action will be decided in two weeks. The vaccinations were halted after a total of 16 cases of myocarditis were reported among adolescents following BNT vaccinations in Taiwan.

“Taiwan’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices had decided to hold off on administering second doses to the 12-17 age group and will meet in two weeks to make a final decision on the matter,” the health minister was quoted as saying.

It comes as Taiwanese media reported that an 18-year-old woman died after taking the Pfizer shot. Taiwan news stated that the teenager died “following her inoculation with the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT) vaccine” and also said that a middle-school student was recovering from myocarditis after taking the jab.

Spokesperson for the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC), Chuanh Jen-hsiang said today (16 November) that six people were reported on Monday (15 November) to have died following vaccinations. Among those cases, the youngest was an 18-year-old woman who “had a history of suffering from cancer”. Taiwan News reported that, after receiving a dose of the Pfizer vaccine on 29 September, the woman started to experience side effects that same day. Then, on 9 November, she experienced upper abdominal pain and was sent to the hospital.

Although she had surgery in hopes of treating her condition on 13 November, she sadly died on 15 November. According to Chuang, the centre is assisting her family in applying for financial compensation in the wake of her death. Taiwan News also reported that a total of 117 adverse reactions to vaccinations had been reported as of Monday, of which 59 were “non-serious” while 52 were categorised as “serious,” and six people died following vaccinations.

Out of those adverse reactions, 17 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis have been reported; 14, were male, while 3 were female. These statistics fall in line with a recent study that found teenage boys are more likely to suffer from vaccine side effects like heart problems than be hospitalised because of Covid-19.

US researchers said young males are six times more likely to get vaccine-related myocarditis than end up in hospital with Covid-19, and also asserted that children who face the highest risk of a “cardiac adverse event” are boys aged between 12 and 15 following two doses of a vaccine.

Experts on the committee will now collect and analyse data on cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in countries other than Taiwan over a two-week period. 1.1 million people aged between 12 and 17 years have already received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Taiwan, according to CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang.

Some countries have altered their vaccine policies for adolescents due to fears over adverse reactions. In July, the World Health Organisation (the WHO) linked the vaccine to rare heart inflammation, announcing  that there was a “likely” link between the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 shots and “very rare” cases of myocarditis and pericarditis.

The WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) made the statement following a string of reports from the US of 40.6 myocarditis cases per million second mRNA doses among males and 4.2 cases per million among females in the 12-29 age bracket. In October, Gript reported that Iceland was among a list of countries to suspend the Moderna vaccine due to “the increased incidence of myocarditis and pericarditis after vaccination with the Moderna vaccine, as well as with vaccination using Pfizer-BioNTech”.

Denmark, Finland and Sweden all suspended the jabs entirely for younger people around the same time, citing the risk of cardiac inflammation. Prior to that, in June, Israeali health officials said they had found 275 cases of myocarditis in young men.

Although those aged 12-17 can be vaccinated in Ireland, experts elsewhere have urged caution because of the risk of rare heart inflammation arising in that age group after receiving Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Even though the UK also pushed ahead with vaccinations for youngsters, back in September, it was warned not to do so by the government-appointed Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The JCVI advised the government that it was not recommending the widespread vaccination of healthy 12-15-year-olds, stating in early September that “the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12-15-year-olds at this time” and added that it preferred to wait for further information on reports of myocarditis in young people following a vaccine drive in the US.

The HSE states that is “rare that COVID-19 causes serious illness, hospitalization or death in children” and adds that the risk of a child aged 12-15 being hospitalised because of Covid-19 is “low,” and the risk of any child needing intensive care treatment is “extremely low”.

The HSE also acknowledges the risk of myocarditis after receiving the vaccine: “Very rarely some children aged 12 or over develop inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) and the outer lining of the heart (pericarditis). The risk of myocarditis is higher in boys after their second dose.

“Data from the United States estimates that the risk of myocarditis in boys aged 12 to 17 is about 1 in 16,000. In girls of the same age, the risk is 1 in 100,000. This is after they got their second dose.

“Most people recover from myocarditis and pericarditis on their own but they may need treatment in hospital. We don’t yet know if there are any long-term problems because of these side effects.”

The HSE has recommended the Covid-19 vaccine “for most children aged 12-15,” however says that the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are not recommended if your child has had myocarditis after a previous dose of the vaccine; has had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in either vaccine (including polyethylene glycol or PEG); or has been told by a doctor that they should not have the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

In the UK, it is recommended that only one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine be given to children, which is related to the risk of myocarditis.

 

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