St. John's Health Sign (for myocarditis)

Parents of a Jackson third grader said he spent Monday night at St. John’s Health after he was diagnosed with myocarditis, a rare heart inflammation and known risk factor of COVID-19 and, to a lesser extent, the COVID-19 vaccine. The 9-year-old was vaccinated for COVID-19 on Saturday and tested positive for the virus on Monday, his parents said.

A 9-year-old boy in Jackson is safely recovering at home after being treated by St. John’s Health for myocarditis, according to his parents, Amy Aronowitz and Sean Baker.

“Though we would have preferred this to remain a private matter, our family is providing this information in order to help curb any rumors and misinformation regarding our child,” they wrote in a statement to the Jackson Hole Daily.

The child tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, two days after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 through the Teton County Health Department. Because none of the authorized coronavirus vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, the vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have no doubt that he had been exposed to and contracted the virus before he received his first dose of the vaccine even though we did not know it at the time,” the boy’s parents wrote.

Although the Teton County Health Department screens for coronavirus symptoms before admitting residents to its clinics, some individuals end up receiving their vaccination while they are unknowingly sick.

Aronowitz and Baker said they tested their son on Monday because he was experiencing shortness of breath, a common symptom of COVID-19, and chest pain, a more serious and severe symptom.

Multiple tests confirmed the positive result, the parents said, and a subsequent diagnosis from St. John’s revealed that their son had myocarditis, a rare inflammation of the heart muscle.

His symptoms were alleviated within the first half hour by administering ibuprofen and a low amount of oxygen, and the third grader was discharged within 19 hours, his parents said.

“Due to the timing and sequence of these events, we may never know whether the myocarditis was caused by COVID-19, the vaccine, or the complicated combination of both and we would urge others not to speculate or draw conclusions unsupported by science and medical professionals,” the parents wrote to the Daily.

News of the boy’s condition was first raised at a public meeting of the Teton District Board of Health on Tuesday morning, when Jackson cafe owner Jessica Vandenbroeke described a recently vaccinated 8-year-old who tested positive for COVID and spent the night at St. John’s “with myocarditis from the vaccine.”

The same story — minus the detail about the boy’s positive COVID test — was shared on social media by community members. The narrative was emailed later that morning to elected officials, the school board and health officials by Allison Free, who wrote that “a local 8-year-old was injured by the vaccine this past weekend.”

“Parents need to know the risks. Please press pause on the 5 to 11-year-old rollout until we have more information,” Free wrote.

Myocarditis is a known risk factor, both from the vaccine and from contracting COVID-19, according to the CDC.

CDC researchers estimated in June that out of a million second doses given to boys ages 12 to 17, the vaccines might cause a maximum of 70 myocarditis cases but would prevent 5,700 infections, 215 hospitalizations and two deaths. Pfizer’s initial study of more than 2,250 vaccinated children 5 to 11 found no cases of myocarditis, though experts said that sample size was likely too small to detect the rare condition.

A separate CDC analysis of 36 million patients from March 2020 to January 2021 found that patients with COVID-19 were nearly 16 times more at risk for myocarditis than those without the virus.

The agency continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 and older; adverse reactions and side effects can be reported online through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Jackson’s public health department also collects VAERS reports, though officials said they haven’t filed any related to the vaccine effort for 5- to 11-year-olds, which began Nov. 11. So far, about 750 children in that bracket have received their first dose, with another hundred or so scheduled for this Saturday.

As of Wednesday, the department had not filed a report for Aronowitz and Baker’s son. The family’s pediatrician, Dr. Travis Riddell, told them he is planning to make that report.

St. John’s wouldn’t confirm this most recent pediatric hospitalization, citing patient privacy laws, but Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly did say they have seen a “handful” of children hospitalized with COVID-19.

Public health officials encourage parents who have additional questions or concerns about the vaccine to speak with a family physician.

This version of the article has been edited to clarify that chest pain is a severe symptom of COVID-19, not a common one. It also has been edited to clarify that Allison Free emailed public officials but did not share on social media. — Ed.

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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