About 33 percent of the state’s 12-to-15 year olds had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as of June 2, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Nearly 60,000 of 176,000 adolescents had gotten their first dose and state and national health officials have been watching for a potential dropoff after reports that some young people developed a heart inflammation known as myocarditis after receiving the vaccine. Federal health researchers have not determined there is a connection to vaccine, and the cases have been mild.
“The 12-15 year olds just last Thursday started hitting their 21-day mark and are now becoming eligible for their second doses of vaccine,” said DPH spokeswoman Maura Fitzgerald. “We will be watching the numbers over the next several weeks to see if there’s a dropoff from first dose to second dose, which could be an indicator of an impact from the reports of myocarditis.”
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged parents to talk to their children about getting vaccinated after seeing a rise in the numbers of adolescents admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 in March and April.
Pfizer tested more than 20,000 adolescents before its vaccine was cleared for use in the 12-to-15-year-old age group.
But two weeks ago, the CDC issued guidance to parents/patients regarding reports of a small number of individuals nationally who developed the rare heart condition after being vaccinated for COVID-19.
After the announcement, the CDC and DPH continued to urge everyone over age 12 to get vaccinated as the risk to unvaccinated individuals of contracting COVID-19 and suffering serious illness exceeds the risk of developing this very rare condition, according to press statements.
“The CDC continues to evaluate these reported cases, and is encouraging reporting to its national vaccine safety monitoring systems, but thus far the CDC has not found a clear link between vaccine and myocarditis,” the DPH announced last week.
Myocarditis can affect the heart muscle and heart’s electrical system, reducing the organ’s ability to pump and causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
A viral infection usually causes myocarditis, but it can result from a reaction to a drug or be part of a more general inflammatory condition. Signs and symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and arrhythmias.
When researching a potential causation, scientists measure the rate of occurrence of a condition after vaccination against its occurrence in the general population pre-COVID-19. To date, the occurrence has not exceeded the rate of myocarditis in the general population and the symptoms have been relatively mild, doctors said.
Unlike a pause on use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to allow researchers and doctors to study a possible link to incidents of blood clots, there was no pause on the use of the Pfizer vaccine in 12-15 year olds.
But the recent health guidelines did little to improve vaccine hesitancy among parents and young people, health experts said.
“When it comes to vaccine hesitancy, people are looking at any reason to not get vaccinated,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, a specialist in infectious diseases at Hartford HeathCare. “It definitely contributed to hesitancy for sure. What we lose is perspective.”
Wu likens the rate of myocarditis occurrences against the numbers of COVID-19 deaths to “spilling your soda in the ocean.”
“It is a small number when you look at the numbers of people getting vaccinated,” Wu said. “The cases were mild.”
The CDC issued more guidance to parents last week after seeing a spike in the numbers of unvaccinated teens admitted to the hospital in March and April.
“I am deeply concerned by the number of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the number of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement that accompanied a new study on teen hospitalizations.
Walensky asked parents to talk with teens about the importance of continuing to wear masks and “encourage them to get vaccinated.”