Winnipeg woman shocked by heart lining inflammation after COVID vaccine, but experts say risk remains low


A 30-year-old Winnipeg woman says she was shocked to be diagnosed with a condition involving inflammation of the lining around her heart days after she got her COVID-19 vaccination in late May. 

But a Winnipeg cardiologist says despite concerns about heart inflammation, vaccines are preventing illness from COVID-19.

The woman, who CBC has agreed not to name because she fears backlash, received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on May 26 and started to feel chest pain the next day.

"Unfortunately I foolishly ignored the chest pains. I just went about my day because it wasn't super painful at first," she said.

Then the next day, she felt out of breath and used an inhaler, thinking it was her asthma. In the next two days, her chest pain persisted and worsened, finally prompting her to visit St. Boniface Hospital, she said.

There the woman was diagnosed with pericarditis, or inflammation of the pericardium, the sac-like tissue around the heart. 

"Obviously I was freaked out. I have never ever had a heart issue, and I am 30. I was, 'What the heck?' This was a very shocking thing to be told," she said.

Last month, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory committee said data suggests a likely link between vaccination with an mRNA vaccine, like those from Pfizer and Moderna, and rare cases of pericarditis or myocarditis (swelling in heart muscle).

The advisory committee maintained, though, that vaccination benefits outweigh the risks.

COVID poses greater risk than vaccine: cardiologist

Winnipeg cardiologist Dr. James Tam says despite concerns about heart inflammation, vaccines are doing their jobs preventing illness from the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 "is a very concerning disease, especially with the delta variant, which is very infectious," he said about the highly transmissible coronavirus variant.

"If it wasn't for vaccines, we wouldn't be able to open up right now. We have to consider that and the risk for each person," he said.

"Also, the frequency of getting myocarditis with COVID infection is much higher than with the vaccine."