Linking cardiac arrest and COVID-19 vaccine is ‘wildly and irresponsibly speculative,’ says expert

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Shortly after news broke that 54-year-old singer Lisa Marie Presley had died of cardiac arrest, some people were once again pointing blame at the COVID-19 vaccine. Speculation regarding a connection between the COVID-19 vaccine and cardiac arrest resurfaced after 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was rushed off the field during a Monday Night Football game earlier this month after suffering cardiac arrest. But experts maintain there is no link between the two. 

“The [suggested] link between the COVID-19 vaccine [and cardiac arrest] is wildly and irresponsibly speculative from a very vocal minority,” Dr. Michael Emery, cardiologist and co-director of the sports cardiology center at Cleveland Clinic, previously told Fortune.

What happened to Lisa Marie Presley?

Presley was rushed to the hospital on Thursday following a call that a woman was in full cardiac arrest. She received CPR and paramedics “determined the patient had signs of life,” as reported in the Associated Press. She died hours later.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest occurs when the “heart’s electrical system malfunctions,” according to the American Heart Association.

“It’s when the electricity becomes disorganized and chaotic, often from ventricular fibrillation [a type of irregular heartbeat],” explained Emery. “And when the heart is disorganized and chaotic, it can’t adequately pump blood to the rest of the body, hence the arrest part.”

Is cardiac arrest the same as a heart attack?

While a heart attack can cause cardiac arrest, the two are not the same. 

“A heart attack is more of a circulation problem in one of the arteries in the heart,” said Emery. “When one of those arteries gets acutely blocked from a heart attack, then there’s a sudden lack of blood flow to part of the muscle of the heart.”

Can COVID-19 cause cardiac arrest?

Although vaccines and viruses, not just those related to COVID-19, can cause myocarditis, or inflammation of the art, instances are rare. Myocarditis can cause a person to become very sick and require hospitalization. It can also lead to cardiac arrest.

“We’ve always known that viruses can cause heart problems and COVID is no different than other viruses that cause heart problems,” said Emery. “The problem is, so many people got COVID all at once that it looks like there’s a huge rash of [heart problems].”

A study published in the American Heart Association journal found that the risk of developing myocarditis following a COVID-19 vaccine booster is low, and when it does occur, cases are typically mild. 

“You’re more likely to develop a serious illness from the COVID virus itself than you are a COVID vaccine,” Emery continued, as people who’ve contracted the virus can sometimes develop lingering effects, such as long COVID; require hospitalization; or may die from complications related to COVID-19.  “This is a case where correlation does not equal causation.”

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