SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSL.com) — The COVID-19 vaccine does not cause any additional side effects for children who developed MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a study co-authored by a Utah doctor found.
The study was published earlier this month in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network and addresses a concern of many parents with children who had a rare COVID-19 complication — would the vaccine lead to a recurrence of MIS-C?
Dr. Dongngan Truong, a pediatric cardiologist with University of Utah Health who works primarily at Primary Children’s Hospital, said a large part of her job during the coronavirus pandemic was to work with children who developed MIS-C after a COVID-19 infection.
She said kids with MIS-C can be very sick and it can be life-threatening. Children with MIS-C can show serious signs of shock with low blood pressure and poor blood flow, inflamed internal organs and sometimes develop heart problems, like dilation or engagement of coronary arteries or decreased squeeze of the heart.
“Many of these kids have ended up in the intensive care unit, many of them on medications to help support their blood pressure,” Truong said.
She said MIS-C is rare and happens in school-age children, with an average of kids about 8 or 9 years old, about six weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Sometimes, she said, the children do not even know they had a COVID-19 infection.
Doctors do not know what causes MIS-C yet, but are thinking it is likely an inflammatory response to the infection. There is also an adult version, but Truong said it seems to be even rarer.
Truong is currently helping to lead a nationwide Pediatric Heart Network study, with over 1,200 participants, researching the long-term effects of MIS-C. She said doctors and researchers could sense vaccine hesitancy from parents whose children were participants, and they wanted to gather more information to understand whether getting the vaccine could lead to another round of severe illness.
“We wanted to provide information to families, because quite frankly we didn’t know,” she said.
Now, she said, they want to get the word out.
Truong said they were glad to see that side effects of the COVID-19 vaccination for the children involved in the study matched the general population, and there were no incidents of MIS-C recurrences or heart inflammation with the vaccine.
The study included 385 children over five who were eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, 48% of the children received the vaccine and none saw a recurrence of the symptoms of MIS-C.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously recommended getting the COVID-19 vaccine after patients wait 90 days after MIS-C symptoms, a guideline followed in this study. Truong said she already strongly encouraged patients to follow these guidelines, but understands getting the vaccine is a personal choice. This study, however, will allow her to use published data to encourage the vaccine.
Through the Pediatric Heart Network study, Truong said they plan to continue following children who had MIS-C for a few years and tracking vaccinations. The study is part of the RECOVER initiative through the National Institutes of Health to study COVID-19 and she said they hope to enroll thousands of children and continue learning.
Truong said other studies have shown that being vaccinated for COVID-19 does lead to a lower chance of developing MIS-C.
For the recently published study, participants were surveyed between December 2021 and February 2022, so the bivalent vaccine was not available and has not been formally studied. Truong said as far as she knows they have not seen any issues with the more recent vaccine, but it is still early.