Did Japanese researchers just discover that COVID-19 vaccines can cause long-term heart damage, even in people with no symptoms?!
Take a look at the viral claims, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : COVID-19 Vaccines May Cause Long-Term Heart Damage!
People are sharing an article by the Children’s Health Defense, suggesting that Japanese researchers found evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause long-term heart damage, even in people with no symptoms!
Children’s Health Defense : 🚨 COVID Vaccine May Cause Long-Term Heart Damage, Even in People With No Symptoms
The findings contradict claims by the CDC that people who develop myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccines experience symptoms but “feel better quickly.”
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No Evidence COVID-19 Vaccines Cause Long-Term Heart Damage!
Let’s take a look at what the Japanese researchers did, and find out why they did not actually show that COVID-19 vaccines cause long-term heart damage!
Fact #1 : Assessment Done Via Pet/CT Scan
First, let me just point out that the study in question (link) is called “Assessment of Myocardial 18F-FDG Uptake at PET/CT in Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2–vaccinated and Nonvaccinated Patients” by Nakahara et al.
This was not an actual clinical study, but a retroactive study based on the PET/CT scans of about 1,000 people – 303 unvaccinated people and 700 vaccinated people.
Fact #2 : Study Was Paired With Editorial
The Nakahara et al study was published in Radiology Vol. 308, which lends it great credence. However, the journal paired it with an editorial by Dr. David Bluemke – a professor of radiology at the University of Wisconsin, to offer much needed context.
Professor Dr. Bluemke was very critical in his editorial, pointing out many problems with the Nakahara et al study. I will summarise some of his key findings below, but if you have the time, please read his editorial in full.
Fact #3 : Study Did Not Conclude Vaccines Cause Heart Damage
To be clear – the study did not show that vaccinated people actually had heart damage, whether long-term or otherwise. It’s even stated in the study’s conclusion:
When compared with nonvaccinated patients, asymptomatic patients who received their second vaccination 1–180 days prior to imaging showed increased myocardial 18F-FDG uptake on PET/CT scans.
The study authors only stated that those PET/CT scans increased myocardial 18F-FDG uptake. Did they not actually claim that it proves any heart damage, long-term or otherwise.
In fact, they also pointed out that the increased 18F-FDG uptake seen in the PET/CT scans may just show minor inflammation, and “may not represent severe myocardial abnormalities”:
[E]ven though vaccinated patients in this study showed elevated myocardial 18F-FDG uptake on PET/CT scans up to 180 days after vaccination, this could result from relatively minor inflammation and may not represent severe myocardial abnormalities.
Fact #4 : 18F FDG PET/CT Is Bad At Evaluating Heart Inflammation
Dr. Bluemke pointed out in his editorial that PET/CT scans using the 18F FDG tracer are a bad way to evaluate any inflammation of the heart.
Unfortunately, in routine clinical practice, 18F FDG PET/CT is a terrible tracer with which to evaluate myocardial inflammation. This is because glucose is the normal source of energy for the myocardium—almost all patients have high myocardial uptake.
As he explained, a proper study would require “diet manipulation” and “12 hours of fasting” to accurately perform myocardial imaging for 80% of patients using FDG PET/CT scans.
Typical disease processes of interest (infection or inflammatory disease) also result in high myocardial uptake. Routine PET/CT cannot help to reliably identify higher activity due to inflammation on an already high background of normal myocardium. Special steps need to be taken.
The trick is to combine a low carbohydrate and high fat diet the day before the FDG PET scan with 12 hours of fasting immediately before imaging. The myocardium will then typically convert to lipid metabolism; radiotracer activity on 18F FDG PET scans is low in about 80% of patients. Therefore, after diet manipulation and fasting, the clinician has a reasonable possibility of detecting inflammatory or infiltrative myocardial disease.
Still, that leaves 20% of patients who have not switched off their use of glucose. With fasting alone (no diet changes), the success of myocardial imaging with PET/CT is even worse, with about 30%–50% of individuals having residual myocardial activity on FDG PET/CT scans.
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Fact #5 : The Patients Had Cancer + Other Diseases
I should point out that the study isn’t actually representative of the general population. About half the patients had cancer of some sort:
- Vaccinated group : 328 of 700 patients had cancer (46.9%)
- Unvaccinated group : 153 of 300 patients had cancer (50.5%)
On top of that, the other patients had a variety of diseases like – sarcoidosis, thyroid disease, etc. and many underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and other forms of treatment that could account for the results.
Dr. Bluemke also pointed out in his editorial that such a non-representative cohort requires “further analysis”:
The main results are asymptomatic patients vaccinated for COVID-19 before PET had about 40% greater radiotracer activity in the myocardium than unvaccinated individuals. The P value was low, less than .001. This translates to only one time out of 1000 that these results would occur by chance.
These results are compelling, but we should remain suspicious without further analysis. There are simply too many things that can still go wrong with this comparison.
Patients with cancer who get vaccinated tend to be older and perhaps at greater risk for being immunocompromised or needing chemotherapy. We do not know the full characteristics of vaccinated versus unvaccinated patients (including the course and nature of chemotherapy treatments). Prior studies showed that younger male individuals had more reports of vaccine-related myocarditis after their second dose of vaccine.
Standardized uptake values are quantitative and useful, but metabolic derangements might also cause the same differences. In short, other differences besides vaccination could be responsible for differences between the two patient groups.
In short – this study requires more data, and more analysis. One certainly cannot draw any kind of conclusions based on PET/CT scams of just 1,000 people – half of which had cancer!
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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