A New Zealand man, 26, died of myocarditis, a rare side effect of COVID-19 vaccine. What you need to know.

A 26-year-old New Zealand man has died from myocarditis linked to the Pfizer vaccine, but health officials there said Monday that the benefits of the vaccine continue to "greatly outweigh" the risks.

Myocarditis, an inflammation that in some cases can limit the heart's ability to properly pump blood, has been detected in a small number of vaccinated people. It is treatable, is not specific to COVID-19 vaccines and was a common side effect of the smallpox vaccine in the past, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The man died within two weeks of receiving his first dose, and a coroner determined that preliminary information has identified myocarditis as the probable cause of death, New Zealand's COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board said in a statement. The man had not sought medical advice or treatment for his symptoms.

"With the current available information, the board has considered that the myocarditis was probably due to vaccination in this individual," the monitoring board's statement said. "The benefits of vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 continue to greatly outweigh the risk of such rare side effects."

The statement added that the COVID-19 infection can itself be a cause of myocarditis as well as other serious illnesses. The World Health Organization has said the risk of myocarditis due to coronavirus infection is actually higher than the risk after vaccination. The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety, which provides independent scientific advice to the WHO, has concluded that in all age groups the benefits of mRNA vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna in the U.S. – in reducing hospitalizations and deaths because of COVID-19 outweigh the risks.

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The case was one of three the board has been reviewing since Dec. 8. The death of a 13-year-old child will require further information before a determination on the role of the vaccine can be made, the board said. And the myocarditis implicated in the death of a man in his 60s was unlikely related to vaccination, according to the statement.

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines sit ready for use at a Dallas County Health and Human Services drive-up vaccine site in Mesquite, Texas.
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines sit ready for use at a Dallas County Health and Human Services drive-up vaccine site in Mesquite, Texas.

The CDC, in an update on myocarditis and the COVID-19 vaccines published last month, said the cases are rare and occur most often after the second dose. The symptoms – chest pain, shortness of breath and feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart – usually present within a week of vaccination.

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Most patients who received care responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly. Patients can usually return to their normal daily activities after their symptoms improve, the CDC said.

"The known risks of COVID-19 illness and its related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization and even death, far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis,' the CDC said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New Zealand man dies from myocarditis linked to Pfizer vaccine