Former CDC head urges kids’ COVID-19 vaccinations as agency probes rare heart issues


As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigates rare reports of heart issues among adolescents and young adults who received COVID-19 vaccinations, a former acting head of the agency says there is no clear link yet to the vaccines, and encourages parents to keep getting kids vaccinated.

Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, made multiple media appearances Monday morning, telling ABC and NBC co-hosts that the CDC is investigating reports of myocarditis — or unusual inflammation of the heart muscle — but so far, the agency has not found reported cases to exceed expected baseline rates.

Besser explained that a CDC advisory committee on vaccine safety analyzes data each week for potential red flags, and though reports of myocarditis appear to fall within normal rates, the committee is analyzing reports to make sure the vaccine isn’t a root cause.


A CDC spokesperson told Fox News some rare reports of heart issues have cropped up in recent weeks in the U.S. and abroad.

“In recent weeks, there have been rare reports of myocarditis and pericarditis occurring after COVID-19 vaccination in the United States and Europe,” said Ben Haynes, CDC spokesperson, in an emailed statement to Fox News. “Myocarditis and pericarditis are side effects that can be seen following a viral infection and other types of vaccination. Reported cases appear to be mild and often go away without requiring treatment.”


“These reports are rare given the number of vaccine doses administered, and CDC and FDA will continue to monitor and evaluate reports of myocarditis/pericarditis occurring after COVID-19 vaccination. Healthcare providers should report all cases to VAERS. CDC continues to strongly recommend COVID-19 vaccination for individuals 12 years of age or older given the risk of COVID-19 illness and related, potentially severe, complications. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect you and your family from COVID-19,” the statement reads.

The CDC declined to disclosure the number of reported cases at this point.

“As a pediatrician, what I would say is, at this point there’s nothing to raise concern. This is telling me that the system is working,” Besser told ‘Good Morning America’ co-hosts. “We do know that COVID infection itself can be very serious … From my perspective, the risk of COVID is so much greater than any theoretical risk from the vaccine. I would say ‘go ahead so we can get our lives back to what we want them to be.’”


According to federal data, there have been at least 3,742 cases of a rare but serious coronavirus-related inflammatory condition, with 35 related deaths, as of the most recent update from May 3. Half of cases occurred in kids aged between five and 13, according to the CDC.

A breakdown of vaccinations by age indicates nearly 2 million kids aged 12-15 started vaccination in the last 2 weeks, and over 600,000 teens aged 16-17 finished all doses in the same time period. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 3.9 million kids have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and new weekly infections are declining to lows not seen since late-October.

Kids comprise 1.3%-3.1% of all reported hospitalizations and less than 2% of all pediatric COVID-19 cases have ended in hospitalization, according to data from 24 states and New York City. Kids comprised less than 0.21% of all COVID-related deaths, the AAP says.


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