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Canadian study on COVID-19 heart health, vaccines gets funding boost

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A first of its kind national study on the impact of COVID-19 and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines on the heart is getting a boost in funding following reports of rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis during the pandemic.

The study, called the Canadian Cardiovascular Society National Active Surveillance Study of Myocarditis and/or Pericarditis following mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination (MYCOVACC), will receive an additional $2 million from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) over two years.

In all, the study will have a total investment of $3.6 million over three years.

According to a news release, the funding will allow the study to expand and extend patient follow-up and perform cardiac imaging on those affected.

“(The study) is working to determine if people who experience these rare heart conditions are at increased risk of future health problems,” said cardiologist Dr. Nathaniel Hawkins, who leads the study.

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MYCOVACC began in October 2022 in response to reports of rare cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart muscle) following mRNA vaccines and COVID-19 infection.

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“While most people make a full recovery after myocarditis and pericarditis, long-term outcomes warrant further investigation,” the news release reads. It adds that the team behind the study will provide valuable insights for clinicians, public health agencies and decision-makers to inform future vaccine programs.

According to the release, the new funding allows for:

  • continued expansion of the existing study and extended follow-up of enrolled patients;
  • a new project using cardiac MRI to investigate recovery of the heart;
  • extended follow-up of patients with COVID-associated myocarditis and/or pericarditis; and,
  • a study to explore reporting of adverse events following immunization to inform development of new tools.

In a recent U.S. study published in late September by the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, researchers found that deaths from heart attacks rose significantly during pandemic surges, including those involving COVID-19 Omicron.

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A large study in England, which looked at COVID-19 data from 43 million people after the vaccine first became available, found the risk of myocarditis was indeed significantly higher after getting sick with COVID-19 compared with a relatively minor risk after vaccination. The study was published in September in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

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“This new investment will help support public trust in vaccine safety and increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, especially among young people and their parents,” the news release reads.

“A good understanding of what happens to those who experience rare cases of myocarditis and/or pericarditis after an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will inform discussions with Canadians of all ages about vaccination.”

Health Canada has said myocarditis and pericarditis have occurred “more often than expected” in adolescents and young adults, particularly males, as well as following a second dose and within seven days of vaccination.

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“In the majority of cases, symptoms of myocarditis or pericarditis resolve quickly after seeking medical care,” the health agency says.

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