Association of Myocarditis With BNT162b2 Messenger RNA COVID-19 Vaccine in a Case Series of Children

JAMA Cardiol. 2021 Aug 10;e213471. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2021.3471. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Importance: The BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccine was authorized on May 10, 2021, for emergency use in children aged 12 years and older. Initial reports showed that the vaccine was well tolerated without serious adverse events; however, cases of myocarditis have been reported since approval.

Objective: To review results of comprehensive cardiac imaging in children with myocarditis after COVID-19 vaccine.

Design, setting, and participants: This study was a case series of children younger than 19 years hospitalized with myocarditis within 30 days of BNT162b2 messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccine. The setting was a single-center pediatric referral facility, and admissions occurred between May 1 and July 15, 2021.

Main outcomes and measures: All patients underwent cardiac evaluation including an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: Fifteen patients (14 male patients [93%]; median age, 15 years [range, 12-18 years]) were hospitalized for management of myocarditis after receiving the BNT162b2 (Pfizer) vaccine. Symptoms started 1 to 6 days after receipt of the vaccine and included chest pain in 15 patients (100%), fever in 10 patients (67%), myalgia in 8 patients (53%), and headache in 6 patients (40%). Troponin levels were elevated in all patients at admission (median, 0.25 ng/mL [range, 0.08-3.15 ng/mL]) and peaked 0.1 to 2.3 days after admission. By echocardiographic examination, decreased left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction (EF) was present in 3 patients (20%), and abnormal global longitudinal or circumferential strain was present in 5 patients (33%). No patient had a pericardial effusion. Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging findings were consistent with myocarditis in 13 patients (87%) including late gadolinium enhancement in 12 patients (80%), regional hyperintensity on T2-weighted imaging in 2 patients (13%), elevated extracellular volume fraction in 3 patients (20%), and elevated LV global native T1 in 2 patients (20%). No patient required intensive care unit admission, and median hospital length of stay was 2 days (range 1-5). At follow-up 1 to 13 days after hospital discharge, 11 patients (73%) had resolution of symptoms. One patient (7%) had persistent borderline low LV systolic function on echocardiogram (EF 54%). Troponin levels remained mildly elevated in 3 patients (20%). One patient (7%) had nonsustained ventricular tachycardia on ambulatory monitor.

Conclusions and relevance: In this small case series study, myocarditis was diagnosed in children after COVID-19 vaccination, most commonly in boys after the second dose. In this case series, in short-term follow-up, patients were mildly affected. The long-term risks associated with postvaccination myocarditis remain unknown. Larger studies with longer follow-up are needed to inform recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination in this population.