A San Diego-area nurse has apparently tested positive for the coronavirus several days after being vaccinated against it.
According to a report this week by KGTV in San Diego, an emergency room nurse identified as Matthew W., who works at two San Diego-area hospitals, posted on Facebook on Dec. 18 that he received the first dose of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine that day.
After working on the COVID-19 unit of a local hospital on Christmas Eve, the station reported, Matthew experienced chills, muscle aches and fatigue.
Two days later, the 45-year-old tested positive for the coronavirus.
Though the development might be disheartening to Americans looking for signs the coronavirus crisis might be starting to pass, one San Diego physician told KGTV it could have been predicted.
“It’s not unexpected at all. If you work through the numbers, this is exactly what we’d expect to happen if someone was exposed,” Dr. Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego, told the station.
In fact, KGTV reported, Ramers said he knew of several local cases in which health care workers became infected about the same time they got the vaccine. It just shows that the vaccine doesn’t take effect immediately, he said.
Ramers also said it is possible the nurse was infected before getting the vaccine, noting that the incubation period of the virus has been known to be as long as two weeks.
“We know from the vaccine clinical trials that it’s going to take about 10 to 14 days for you to start to develop protection from the vaccine,” Ramers said.
Ramers said the first dose of the two-dose vaccine is not going to give any recipient instant immunity. The two doses are supposed to be given several weeks apart.
“That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50 percent, and you need that second dose to get up to 95 percent,” Ramers told KGTV.
Ramers noted that the timing of the two-dose vaccine is one reason experts say the process of bringing the virus under control will take time.
“You hear health practitioners being very optimistic about it being the beginning of the end, but it’s going to be a slow roll, weeks to months as we roll out the vaccine,” said Ramers.
Reminder: A vaccine in the future doesn’t prevent infection NOW
A vaccine today doesn’t even prevent infection tomorrow. It takes 2 doses and several weeks for adequate immunity.
— Grumpy Pug (Kate)? (@GrumpyPug17) December 24, 2020
A primer on vaccines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018 notes that vaccines do not confer instant immunity.
“[I]t typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination,” the CDC wrote, referring to the types of cells that fight disease.
“Therefore, it is possible that a person infected with a disease just before or just after vaccination could develop symptoms and get a disease, because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection,” the CDC wrote.
The CDC noted in an updated post that the same holds true for the coronavirus vaccine.
“It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection,” it wrote.
It also made a point of stating COVID-19 vaccines will not give a recipient the disease.
“None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development or in use in the United States, contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development,” the CDC stated. “However, the goal for each of them is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.”
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