While rare, some people may experience chest pain following a COVID-19 vaccination. This can be due to myocarditis or pericarditis, which are types of inflammation of the heart.

Like any vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines may cause side effects as they trigger the immune system to make antibodies that will prevent a person from getting sick in the future.

These are mostly mild to moderate and do not last longer than a few days, and the chance of getting any side effects may differ according to the specific vaccine.

Typical symptoms include pain at the injection site, mild fever, and headaches. Rarely, some may develop chest pain from a heart-related side effect caused by the vaccine.

This article explores chest pain as a rare side effect of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and the treatments available. It also discusses other vaccine effects, when to consult a doctor, and the risks and benefits of vaccinations.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Meanwhile, pericarditis is the inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.

Both conditions occur when the body’s immune system produces inflammation in response to an infection or another trigger.

Recent studies show a clear temporal relationship between having pericarditis, myocarditis, or both after COVID-19 vaccination. This led experts to believe that COVID-19 vaccines may trigger these heart-related complications.

Types of vaccines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech) poses a rare risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.

The United Kingdom Government also acknowledged it as a rare side effect of their Novavax vaccine.

This side effect pattern has not been linked to the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine, an adenovector vaccine.

When it occurs

The rare cases of myocarditis or pericarditis most often occur within 7 days after receiving a second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. It is rare after the first shot and even rarer after booster shots.

Who is affected

This most frequently affects:

  • adolescents and young adults
  • males
  • people 16 and older

Fortunately, most vaccine-related myocarditis and pericarditis are mild and resolve quickly.

The most common medication doctors used to treat myopericarditis caused by the COVID-19 vaccine were nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Doctors also prescribe:

People with significant fluid buildup in the space around the heart (pericardial effusion) may need percutaneous or surgical drainage to achieve a stable blood flow.

Doctors may also prescribe standard heart failure treatment to individuals showing signs and symptoms of heart failure with myocardial involvement. These include:

Activity restrictions for up to 3 months are necessary for people with myocardial effects and sports involvement.

COVID-19 vaccine side effects vary from person to person and across different age groups. They are often mild and temporary. They generally include:

  • pain, redness, or swelling on the arm (or leg) where the person got their shot
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • chills
  • fever
  • nausea

A person who presents symptoms of pericarditis or myocarditis, especially if they occur within a week of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, should contact a doctor.

These are the most common features of myopericarditis following a COVID-19 vaccination:

If a person has any concerns about their symptoms or requires treatment, they must consult a doctor.

The COVID-19 vaccine is a safe and effective way to stay protected against severe illness from COVID-19.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older gets vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.

The benefits of protecting against COVID-19 and related long-term complications, even death, greatly outweigh the potential risk of having a rare adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Aside from COVID-19 vaccines, some other vaccines may cause pericarditis and myocarditis. The most strongly associated vaccine with side effects is the smallpox vaccine.

Other vaccinations that may cause myocarditis and pericarditis include:

Myocarditis is a significant complication of COVID-19 which can worsen the outlook for people with the infection.

A 2021 study showed that the prevalence of myocarditis in athletes with recent COVID-19 infections was 2.3%.

Read more about chest pain after COVID-19.

Chest pain is a rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine secondary to myocarditis or pericarditis. Aside from being relatively rare, the majority of those affected recovered well.

It is still essential to get COVID-19 vaccinations as doctors suggest the benefits of prevention against COVID-19 and its associated complications far outweigh the rare side effects a person may experience after the vaccine.