Damar Hamlin, an American football player, collapsed on the field on Monday evening after colliding with an opponent, resulting in a cardiac arrest. He required resuscitation twice.
There was rampant speculation on social media that the 24-year-old Buffalo Bills star's heart had been dangerously weakened by the Covid jab, leading to him being the victim. This all happened within hours.
The incident was tweeted by the British cardiologist Aseem Malhotra, who raised a question regarding whether the person involved had received the mRNA vaccine. He also pointed out that the vaccine's side-effect myocarditis (heart inflammation) is linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death in contact sports where blunt chest impact is common.
It's good news that Hamlin's health is getting better. He is currently in the intensive care unit, but according to doctors, he is now conscious and communicating with his family and medical staff at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
In recent months, there has been a growing theory linking vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA vaccines, with heart problems. Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has called for a halt to the vaccine roll-out due to these concerns, even before the Hamlin incident occurred.
Last month, he told Parliament that he believed the mRNA vaccines were unsafe, ineffective, and unnecessary.
What is causing the recent increase in vaccine skepticism? Is there evidence that the vaccine impacts the heart? If so, are the benefits still greater than the potential risks?
A Renewed Fear
Although anti-vaxxers have been around for some time, there is now a growing concern as people outside of the usual conspiracy theory circles are becoming involved. In the Journal of Insulin Resistance, Dr. Malhotra recently published an article praising vaccines as a significant accomplishment in medicine. He personally received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine to safeguard his patients and appeared on Good Morning Britain to promote vaccine acceptance.
According to The Telegraph, the former deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Kailash Chand, used to believe that traditional vaccines were extremely safe and couldn't cause any harm. However, the death of his seemingly healthy 73-year-old father due to a cardiac arrest last July made him rethink his stance on vaccines.
Dr. Chand's son believes that his father's recent booster vaccine, despite receiving it six months earlier, may have played a role in his death due to severe blockages found in two out of three major arteries during the post-mortem.
Dr. Malhotra said that he was very familiar with his dad's medical background. Despite being in lockdown, his father remained very fit and was able to maintain his daily goal of walking 10,000 steps. Just a few weeks before, they climbed mountains together.
Although my area of expertise involves heart scans, I was still surprised to find severe blockages during the post-mortem examination since we had conducted scans a few years earlier which showed no issues.”
There Has Been a Concerning Rise in the Number of Deaths Caused by Heart Problems
The statement made by Dr. Malhotra about the increase in heart disease-related deaths in recent years is correct. The British Heart Foundation confirms that since the start of the pandemic, there have been approximately 30,000 more deaths caused by heart disease than what was predicted. This equates to over 230 extra deaths per week compared to expected rates.
Last year, there were certain weeks where the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease exceeded 1,000 as mentioned on the death certificates. However, there were various reasons behind this increase, and we don't necessarily need to attribute it to COVID vaccines.
During the first year of the pandemic, the risk of stroke and heart attack was increased due to a Covid infection. The disruption caused by the mandates to ‘Protect the NHS' by the government has also led to a significant toll on heart care services, which resulted in patients not receiving critical treatment on time.
The expected time for ambulance arrival for suspected heart attack patients has increased from 18 to 48 minutes. As a result, there are currently 350,000 heart patients waiting for time-sensitive treatment, which reflects a 50% increase since the pandemic started.
Lockdowns and work from home policies made the existing health issues worse as it led to people adopting a more stagnant lifestyle and increasing their alcohol intake. Britain was already struggling with a significant number of obesity and heart disease cases. Although there are several reasons behind these problems, Dr. Malhotra believes that vaccines are also contributing to them.
According to him, Pfizer's trial data indicated that four individuals who took the vaccine suffered from cardiac arrests, whereas only one person in the placebo group experienced it. He also refers to a study by US cardiologist Dr. Stephen Gundry, published in the journal Circulation, which suggests that inflammatory markers in patients increased significantly after they received vaccines. This caused their five-year risk of heart attack to elevate from 11% to 25%. He emphasized that this increase was enormous and couldn't be achieved even if someone smoked 40 cigarettes, consumed unhealthy food, drank alcohol, and practiced a sedentary lifestyle.
The Gundry study received a lot of criticism and was later modified to clarify that the observed biomarker increases were not a result of an experiment and that there was no basis for comparison as there was no control group or unvaccinated patients involved. Additionally, no statistical comparison was carried out.Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP, has requested a pause in the distribution of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.
A Link to Vaccines and Heart Problems
There have been reports of some individuals experiencing heart problems after taking the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) encourages doctors to report any side-effects through the ‘Yellow Card' system, and there have been a consistent number of reports regarding heart issues believed to potentially be related to the vaccines since the rollout began.
According to data as of November 23, 2022, the MHRA has received 851 reports of myocarditis and 579 reports of pericarditis associated with the Pfizer vaccine. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, while the latter is inflammation of the lining outside the heart. The majority of cases were mild and patients recovered quickly, but seven deaths have been reported.
The number of reports for myocarditis and pericarditis associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine from Oxford was 241 and 226, respectively, with six deaths. For the Moderna vaccine, there were 251 reports of myocarditis and 149 reports of pericarditis with two deaths.
The issues are being discovered recently because Phase 3 clinical trials have too few participants to detect uncommon events, particularly if they only occur in a small subgroup (such as young males). However, in spite of these seemingly high numbers, they should be considered in the context of the large number of immunizations administered since 2020.
As of last autumn, Britain had administered 53 million first doses and over 90 million booster shots. Out of all the jabs given, Pfizer accounted for 57%, AstraZeneca for 29%, and Moderna for 14%.
Although there is a small risk, the reporting rates for myocarditis and pericarditis are low for all three vaccines: Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca. Moderna has a reporting rate of around 14 complaints per million doses for myocarditis and eight per million for pericarditis; Pfizer has a reporting rate of 10 in a million for myocarditis and six in a million for pericarditis; and AstraZeneca has a reporting rate of five in a million for both myocarditis and pericarditis. It is worth noting that the vaccines have caused a slight increase in the normal background rate of these conditions; however, Britain usually sees around 60 new cases of myocarditis and 100 new cases of pericarditis per million people each year.