We don’t yet know if temporary heart inflammation is a rare side effect of mRNA vaccination, but it’s possible

Photo: Heather Hazzan/SELF Magazine

As parents consider the risks and benefits of the Covid-19 vaccines for their kids, they may have heard about a heart inflammation condition called myocarditis or pericarditis occurring after some people get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the tl;dr?

  • The risk varies from 1–25 cases per one million mRNA vaccine doses, depending on the person’s age, which vaccine they get…


India’s remarkable triumph over polio shows it can defeat massive public health challenges—but not when it lacks the vaccines that go unused in places like the U.S.

A local volunteer vaccinator administers two drops of the oral polio vaccine to children in a slum outside Delhi, India. (Photo by Tara Haelle)

In January 2020, as the world was only just beginning to hear about a new coronavirus making its way through, and out of, China, I was flying home from Delhi, India. I had been there for just over a week with Rotary International to observe and report on India’s National Immunization Day, a big part of their global polio eradication campaign. I’ve reflected on what I learned while reporting during those couple of days again and again throughout the pandemic, but especially in the past several weeks as I’ve read about the heartbreaking devastation of Covid-19 in India.

I can’t…


Now that kids as young as 12 can get a vaccine, here’s a look at how parents across the country are responding

Photo: Marisol Benitez/Unsplash

When the FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12–15, millions of parents across the country breathed a sigh of relief. At last, their teens could have the opportunity to live somewhat normal lives with the protection a vaccine offered them.

“For some teens, the vaccine may be their sort of beacon of hope that they can go back to doing the things they want to do without worry, without fear,” Robin Gurwitch, PhD, a psychologist and professor at Duke University Medical Center, told me. She said some teens may look forward to getting the vaccine so they…


Both Jimmy Kimmel and John Oliver addressed the problem of decreasing Covid-19 vaccination rates, but only one did it well

John Oliver discussing Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in a recent show.

Within two days of one another, two late-night talk show hosts addressed the issue of people who haven’t yet gotten the Covid-19 vaccine. The difference between the approaches — and the public health impact — is stark. No, I’m not talking about Tucker Carlson spouting off his anti-vaccine nonsense. I’m talking about two hosts who both thought people should get the vaccine. Except, one did his homework, and one most certainly did not — which possibly ensures that some folks will never get their vaccine given his approach.

The disaster of a performance that damaged public health came from Jimmy…


This video is exactly the kind of PSA we need right now

For most of the past several decades, the anti-vaccine movement and general vaccine hesitancy did not fall along partisan lines. Despite common stereotypes of “anti-vaxxers” or “privileged granola moms” who wanted to skip vaccines as belonging to one or another political group, vaccine hesitancy as a whole was pretty evenly spread across the aisle.

“Vaccines aren’t a partisan issue. The consensus in favor of vaccination in this country is very strong and extends across every religious, racial, and political group,” Brendan Nyhan, PhD, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College who has published research on vaccine attitudes, told me


A vaccine reporter distills what we know now, how boosters work, and some (fun) lessons in immunology

A white man wearing a salmon colored shirt in a car and wearing a blue surgical mask is receiving a vaccine through the window from a Black nurse wearing scrubs, blue gloves, an N95 masks, and a blue handkerchief with polka dots.
A white man wearing a salmon colored shirt in a car and wearing a blue surgical mask is receiving a vaccine through the window from a Black nurse wearing scrubs, blue gloves, an N95 masks, and a blue handkerchief with polka dots.
Photo: Alex Mecl/Unsplash

A lot of articles and discussions have been popping up on the topic of booster shots for Covid-19 vaccines: Will we need them? Why will we need them? When will we need them? I’ve noticed an unsettling trend among the articles I’ve been reading about boosters. Many suggest we’re almost certainly going to need booster shots, but none provide actual data to support that claim. The articles are highly speculative.

The reality is that we won’t know if we need boosters at all until we have data in hand telling us we need them. But I’ll explain what that means…


It’s too soon to know what specifically caused the blood clots — that’s the biggest reason the vaccine administration was paused

An illustration of the inside of a red blood vessel with a clump of red blood cells traveling through it.
An illustration of the inside of a red blood vessel with a clump of red blood cells traveling through it.
Image by Mecder

The CDC and FDA jointly recommended pausing administration of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine Tuesday April 13, sending a lot of people into a tailspin of questions about what the suspension means and whether the vaccine is safe. Here’s an explainer that answers as many of those questions as carefully as is currently possible — no doubt more answers will come every day.

What happened?

On April 13, the FDA and CDC jointly announced a recommendation that administration of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine pause to allow investigation of a possible safety concern. Out of 6.8 million doses of the…


A long history of dismissing women’s experiences in medicine may be limiting reported side effects in clinical trials

a Black woman wearing a blue sleeveless top receives a bandaid after receiving a vaccination from a white-appearing woman whose face is away from the camera
a Black woman wearing a blue sleeveless top receives a bandaid after receiving a vaccination from a white-appearing woman whose face is away from the camera
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Vaccine trials include tens of thousands of people in phase 3 to ensure that even rare side effects are more likely to be detected. But once the vaccine is authorized and millions of people have begun receiving it, sometimes researchers learn about other even rarer side effects not captured in the trials. But scientists could also miss a side effect if they simply don’t ask about it — or don’t record it when participants report it.

That may be why it’s taken months after the vaccines were authorized by the FDA to explore whether changes in menstruation might be a…


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Risk assessment is hard. Nearly every situation has a range of different variables that affect risk, and only some of these variables can be quantified. Others we have to estimate, and in the human brain, emotions inevitably get tangled up in the process of trying to make those estimations and come to an overall idea of how risky something is or isn’t.

“This is why medical doctors and people in public health train for years to help people understand the public health landscape and marry public health with their own individual conditions and risk,” Lucy McBride, MD, an internist in…


Photo: Alex Mecl/Unsplash

For the most part, getting a Covid-19 vaccination shouldn’t change any of your typical health, fitness, or wellness routines, or at least not for more than a day or two. Still, it’s reasonable to have questions about whether you should hold off on certain things, such as working out, drinking alcohol, or taking certain medications. Below are some of the common questions people have about what they should or shouldn’t do after vaccination related to their own health. …

Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle is a science journalist, public speaker, and author of Vaccination Investigation and The Informed Parent. Follow her at @tarahaelle.

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