There is little evidence to suggest a significant risk of heart failure from COVID-19 vaccinations. In rare cases, COVID-19 vaccination may cause inflammation of the heart.

Research suggests there is an extremely rare risk of heart inflammation, including myocarditis, pericarditis, and tachycardia, following COVID-19 vaccination. Complications of myocarditis may lead to heart failure.

Experts suggest that the risks of COVID-19 infection far outweigh the risks of COVID-19 vaccinations.

This article looks at the link between COVID-19 vaccinations and heart problems, and the recommendations on vaccinations for people with existing heart conditions.

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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 Some information may be out of date.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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Heart failure following a COVID-19 vaccination may be a possible but rare side effect.

A 2022 article reports one case study of congestive heart failure occurring after a COVID-19 vaccination.

A 47-year-old male developed shortness of breath 5 days after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Doctors misdiagnosed him with allergies and bronchitis.

After several weeks, he returned with worsening symptoms. After testing, doctors found that he had experienced congestive heart failure. This suggests that his symptoms may have associations with the vaccine.

However, the authors state this does not prove that the COVID-19 vaccine can lead to heart failure. They suggest that this could have been a coincidence and that the risk of heart failure from COVID-19 is higher than the risk from COVID-19 vaccination.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is a very small risk of heart complications, such as myocarditis, after getting the COVID-19 vaccination. Without treatment, myocarditis may lead to severe complications, including heart failure.

However, the NIH also notes that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.

Signs of heart failure and when to contact a doctor

People will need to contact a doctor if they have any signs of heart failure, which include:

  • shortness of breath when carrying out everyday activities
  • difficulty breathing when lying down
  • swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or stomach
  • fatigue and weakness

Tachycardia is the term for a fast heart rate. According to a 2022 article, heart palpitations can be a common side effect after receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, but this usually resolves by itself.

There have been some cases of people having prolonged tachycardia after COVID-19 vaccination, which may require treatment.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a condition that causes a fast heart rate when people move from lying down to standing up.

There have been reports of POTS after COVID-19 illness, but there is less information on whether POTS occurs after COVID-19 vaccination.

A 2022 article looked at the occurrence of POTS in 284,592 people who had received a COVID-19 vaccine. The research found there may be an increased risk of POTS after vaccination, but this is not as high as the risk of POTS after COVID-19.

The risk of POTS after COVID-19 is 5 times higher than the risk of POTS after vaccination, and the risk of POTS after vaccination may be low.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is an inflammation of the thin tissue surrounding the heart.

A 2022 systematic review looked at 46 studies to examine whether COVID-19 vaccination was linked to a risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.

Researchers found that, although rare, the risk of myocarditis was higher in younger males aged 12–29 years following a second dose of the vaccine.

Researchers also found that the risk of myocarditis may be higher after the Moderna mRNA vaccine than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The researchers suggest that the risk of either myocarditis or pericarditis may be lower if people have the second dose of the vaccine more than 30 days after having the first dose.

The research also found that most people with myocarditis or pericarditis after a COVID-19 vaccine only spent a brief period in the hospital and responded well to standard treatments. Long-term follow-up from the studies is lacking.

According to 2021 research, pericarditis may occur more commonly in older adults at a later stage, after the first or second dose of the vaccine.

There is little evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines may cause any heart problems other than those listed above.

There may be a small risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, which causes blood clots with low platelet counts, with the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines.

However, the risk of this is rare, and the risk of blood clots from COVID-19 is higher than with either of the vaccines above.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with heart problems receive COVID-19 vaccinations. This includes people with:

  • heart disease
  • cardiovascular risk factors
  • a history of previous heart attack or stroke

People with heart problems have a higher risk of complications from COVID-19 than the COVID-19 vaccine, so vaccination is important.

The European Society of Cardiology recommends COVID-19 mRNA vaccination for people with heart failure, as the vaccines link to a reduced risk of death among people with heart failure. And there is no evidence of an increased risk of worsening heart failure.

People can speak with a healthcare professional about their specific health condition and any concerns they have about getting COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters.

People with existing heart conditions may be at risk of severe COVID-19, and experts recommend the COVID-19 vaccination for people with heart conditions.

Heart problems may be a rare side effect of COVID-19 vaccination. In most cases, research suggests that COVID-19 poses a much greater risk than the potential side effects of COVID-19 vaccination.

If people have any concerning side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, such as shortness of breath, they should contact a doctor straight away.