BY ROBERT KOGON 18 AUGUST 2023
Bronny James’s cardiac arrest has again raised the issue of how rare or frequent cardiac injury is in the aftermath of receiving an mRNA vaccine, especially among young males. Last Tuesday was the two-year anniversary of an incident during a bicycle race in Belgium, which might have already settled the issue had it been more widely known.
On August 15th, 2021, Yarno van Herck, a rising star of the Acrog-Tormans cycling team, began having shooting pains in his chest during a junior-division race in the Flemish town of Vorselaar. Van Herck would fight through the pain to somehow make it to the finish line. But after the race, his parents would rush him to the hospital, where he would be diagnosed with myocarditis and admitted to intensive care.
Yarno van Herck was 15 years old at the time. Two days earlier, he had received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Dramatic footage of the young cyclist in obvious distress and incapable of responding to a reporter’s questions can be viewed here from the Flemish regional broadcaster RTV.
But what makes the incident particularly significant is that van Herck was the third member of the Acrog-Tormans junior squad to develop heart problems in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 vaccination in a period of just three weeks. The summer of 2021 was, of course, the summer of the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines to younger age groups.
According to the team’s sporting director Jef Robert, three weeks before the Vorselaar incident, van Herck’s then 17 year-old teammate, Joppe Erpels, developed severe heart problems one day after a race and likewise just two days after being vaccinated against COVID-19. Erpels would also be admitted to intensive care. Indeed, his condition was so serious that, according to Robert, there were fears for the young man’s life.
A third team member, Xander Verhagen, developed heart problems while training just one day after being administered a COVID-19 vaccine. The then 17 year-old Verhagen was able to avoid hospitalisation and recover at home.
At the time, the Acrog-Tormans junior squad consisted of just 80 cyclists. According to Jef Robert, all of them were vaccinated. Three out of 80 gives a rate of cardiac events in the aftermath of vaccination of greater than one in 27!
It is worth recalling in this connection that a Thai cohort study of cardiovascular effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in adolescents uncovered five confirmed or suspected cases of myocarditis and two confirmed cases of pericarditis in a sample of just 301 vaccinees. Moreover, a closer look at the data (see below) reveals that all of the cases involved males. 202 of the study participants were male.
This gives a rate of incidence of myocarditis among male participants of around one in 40 and of myocarditis or pericarditis of around one in 29.
Happily, Yarno van Herck made a relatively quick and remarkable comeback from his heart problems. Just two months after the dramatic events in Vorselaar, he not only resumed racing, but even made it onto the podium with a second-place finish. Xander Verhagen appears also to have quickly resumed racing. However, a search of Belgian cycling sites does not turn up any evidence that Joppe Erpels has returned to competitive cycling.