CDC delays meeting on kids' COVID vaccine heart risk

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention postponed a special meeting Friday on the health risk to teens from rare cases of heart inflammation after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, citing the newly created Juneteenth federal holiday.

“The June 18, 2021 COVID-19 meeting is being rescheduled due to the observation of the Juneteenth National Independence Day holiday,” the CDC said in a notice on its website about the online meeting of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The discussion will be added to the committee’s regularly scheduled meeting June 23-25. The draft agenda has yet to be updated to indicate what day and time the matter will be discussed during the three-day meeting, which also will cover topics such as influenza and rabies vaccines.

The abrupt postponement did not sit well with medical experts who have raised alarm over the rate of heart inflammation seen in adolescents, teens and young adults — mostly males and typically after the second of the two shots of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, said Friday on Twitter that he thought the rescheduling was “a joke,” given the seriousness of the risk. He argues kids should not get the second shot until the heart risk is better understood.

I thought this was a joke. Because of the new Juneteenth holiday, the CDC is delaying their emergency mtg to review 226 heart complications in kids after vaccination.

I recommend kids do not get a 2nd dose until these complications are properly reviewed.

— Marty Makary MD, MPH (@MartyMakary) June 18, 2021

Black Americans for years have been commemorating June 19, the date in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were finally freed following the Civil War. Congress voted this week to make Juneteenth the country’s 12th federal holiday, the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day nearly 40 years ago. President Joe Biden signed it into law Thursday afternoon.

While it took three years for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be observed after it was created, implementation of the Juneteenth holiday has come much faster for some. Though the U.S. Postal Service said it planned to continue operations Friday and Saturday, a number of federal workers were expected to be given Friday off, since the actual holiday this year falls on a Saturday.

The CDC has acknowledged “rare” but increased reports of myocarditis and pericarditis mostly in adolescent boys and young men age 16 or older after they received the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. The inflammation of the heart muscle or lining typically arises within a week, more often after the second of the two shots, with chest pain, shortness of breath and a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heartbeat.

For now, the CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone age 12 years and older, “given the risk of COVID-19 illness and related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death.”

But many health experts like Makary have disagreed with that risk calculation, several of whom cited concerns at a U.S. Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisory committee meeting on the matter last week.

Though no one is known to have died of heart inflammation after the COVID-19 vaccines, CDC data at that meeting indicated there were more reported cases than expected. The reported incidents of heart inflammation were much higher than the rare blood clots that had led to a 10-day suspension of Johnson and Johnson’s one-shot vaccine and a warning of the risk.

“The issue for me is at what stage are we going to say we know enough to justify widespread use of the vaccine in adolescents and children,” said Dr. Cody Meissner, a pediatrics professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “The first mandate is to do no harm. We don’t know if we’re doing no harm.”