There is no evidence to suggest that there is a substantial risk of heart problems following COVID-19 vaccines.
Malhotra's comments are highly misleading and vastly exaggerate the risk of heart problems following a COVID-19 vaccine. His comments are based on a recently published abstract from American Heart Association's (AHA) journal Circulation. The paper lacks credibility and has been cited by a number of COVID-19 skeptics and conspiracy theorists over the past week, including Vernon Coleman and Robert Malone, to imply that the vaccine is unsafe.
As Logically has previously noted, the paper is not a published paper at all - it is a poster presentation from an online conference. Posters are a way of advertising talks about scientific work during conferences, and are neither peer-reviewed nor published in the same way that actual scientific papers are. This abstract has no published data, no references, and several spelling errors.
Since the abstract was published on November 8, the AHA has updated the abstract with an Expression of Concern, saying that the abstract is not reliable and needs to be corrected:
“Soon after the publication of the above abstract in Circulation, it was brought to the American Heart Association Committee on Scientific Sessions Program’s attention that there are potential errors in the abstract. Specifically, there are several typographical errors, there is no data in the abstract regarding myocardial T-cell infiltration, there are no statistical analyses for significance provided, and the author is not clear that only anecdotal data was used. We are publishing this Expression of Concern until a suitable correction is published to indicate that the abstract in its current version may not be reliable.”
The author of the abstract and study, Dr. Steven Gundry, is a former cardiac surgeon who has spent the last ten years retired from medicine and instead has spent his time writing diet books. He has made numerous pseudoscientific and false claims since he left the medical profession, and he earns a living selling unproven wellness treatments. He has promoted the unscientific “lectins” theory of disease.
According to Dr. David Gorski MD PhD, editor of Science-Based Medicine and also the Respectful Insolence science communications blog, the experiment as written is designed extremely poorly. In a lengthy post on Respectful Insolence, he discusses the drawbacks and misrepresentations in the study. Vaccines are designed to create an immune response. The PULS test essentially measures inflammation. One of the chief features of an immune response is inflammation. It is therefore completely unsurprising that the PULS tests showed that the patients had inflammation. This is an indication that the vaccines are working as designed.
This is not an indication, however, that vaccine-induced inflammation is dangerous. PULS tests are not widely used by cardiologists. Although the makers of the PULS test claim that it can predict who might get heart disease, there is little evidence this is true. As the experiment lacks control groups, it is not clear whether all vaccines -- mRNA or not -- produce inflammation measurable on a PULS test, nor is it clear that the vaccines caused the inflammation in these cases, as there was no control group who didn’t receive the vaccine but did receive a PULS test. There is no control group for people who didn’t get vaccinated but have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, which would measure whether such inflammation happens only in people after getting vaccinated, or whether it also happens in people who have been infected.
The sample size of 566 people is extremely small. Gundry appears not to have performed any statistical analysis, and therefore there is no indication that his results are statistically significant. For comparison, the Pfizer vaccine went through multiple rounds of safety trials, the largest of which included 46,331 individuals. These people were randomly sorted into test groups and control groups, and the administration of the vaccines and placebos was double-blinded; that is, neither the scientists nor the patients knew whether they were getting a vaccine or saline solution. Randomization, control groups, and double-blinding help eliminate conscious biases, and when experiment design lacks these things, the data cannot be used.
This is not the first time Gundry has used abstracts published as posters for an online conference to bolster his pseudoscientific claims, nor is it even the first time he’s used the PULS test to make claims about the dangers of inflammation. In an abstract from July 2019, he claimed that the diet promoted in his book The Plant Paradox, which he cites in his abstract by name, would reduce the inflammation measurable by the PULS test.
Malhotra adds that he received information from anonymous researchers who came to similar conclusions but were not able to publish their findings as they would lose funding from pharmaceutical companies. He also mentions that cardiologists told him that patients referred to their clinics with heart problems are becoming "younger and younger." All of these examples are anecdotal and unverifiable, and cannot be treated as legitimate.
Malhotra called on the Joint Committee for Vaccine and Immunisation (JCVI) to investigate these issues. However, the JCVI has produced research and continues to monitor cases of myocarditis (heart inflammation) among young people after the vaccine. It concluded that post-vaccination myocarditis is extremely rare, typically mild, and quickly resolved with medical care. The JCVI notes that the risks of health complications due to COVID-19 are considerably higher than the risk of adverse reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine.
The research Maholtra provides in the GB News clip is not credible and his statements could spark fears over the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. The risk of developing heart problems after the COVID-19 vaccine is extremely low.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.