As Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations for students aged 12 to 17 are to begin on campuses on Thursday next week, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged recipients to be especially watchful for five signs of possible myocarditis or pericarditis, which are rare adverse reactions to some COVID-19 vaccines.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices convener Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) joined the CECC’s daily news briefing to report on possible side effects after receiving a BioNTech vaccine.
Lee said that cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been observed in people in the US who have received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines — including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine.
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.
“Pericarditis can cause sharp chest pain, and it is usually not serious, but severe myocarditis could lead to symptoms of heart failure, which vaccine recipients should especially be aware of after vaccination,” he said.
Lee said that postmarketing safety data of the BioNTech drug indicates that very rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been observed following vaccination, which usually occurred within 14 days after inoculation, with only a few exceptions occurring two to four weeks after vaccination.
“Vaccine recipients should pay attention to possible symptoms within 28 days following vaccination, and seek medical attention immediately if they occur,” he said.
Lee said that the five main symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis include: chest pain, tightness, or discomfort; palpitations (rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeat); syncope (fainting); exercise intolerance (inability or decreased ability to perform normal physical exercise, such as climbing stairs or gasping for breath after taking a few steps); and general shortness of breath.
Myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination more often occur after receiving the second dose, and the risk is much higher in men younger than 30, he said.
However, while rare adverse events have been reported, many countries have suggested that the benefits of young people getting the BioNTech vaccine still outweigh its known and potential risks, he added.
People aged 12 to 17 who are not enrolled in school can start registering for the BioNTech vaccine in the national COVID-19 vaccination booking system from 10am today, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center.
The CECC would announce the vaccination dates at a later period, he added.
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