ER nurse in California tests positive for COVID-19 eight days after getting vaccine

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An emergency room nurse in California has tested positive for COVID-19 about a week after taking Pfizer’s new vaccine.

San Diego-area nurse Matthew W., 45, who works at two hospitals, wrote on Facebook December 18 that he had received the Pfizer’s vaccine earlier in the day. According to ABC15, he said that his arm was sore for about a day but that he had no additional side effects.

But six days later — Christmas Eve — after working a shift in one of the hospital’s COVID-19 units, Matthew said he became ill, getting chills and muscle aches along with fatigue.

Then, the day after Christmas, he said he went to a drive-up testing site at an area hospital and found out he was positive for the virus.

“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, who sits on the county’s vaccine rollout clinical advisory panel, told ABC10.

On its website, the CDC said that COVID-19 vaccines do not cause people to contract the virus because none of them in use or in development “contain the live virus that causes” the disease.

“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,” the site notes.

Ramers noted that, saying it’s possible that Matthew was infected with the virus before he was vaccinated.

“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 told the news outlet.

Ramers also said that he is aware of other cases locally where healthcare workers who were vaccinated also came down with the virus at about the time they were vaccinated. He noted that in all of the cases, it simply indicates that being protected from the virus does not happen right away.

Also, he pointed out that the COVID-19 vaccines are taken in stages — a series of two injections — which means full protection won’t be immediate.

“That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50 percent, and you need that second dose to get up to 95 percent,” Ramers said.

The clinician added that Matthew’s case indicates that even with vaccines, two of which have received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the pandemic is not simply going to vanish.

“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.

He also said that Matthew’s case illustrates how people should continue to wear masks, wash their hands, and observe other COVID protocols such as social distancing even after getting vaccinated.

As for Matthew, ABC10 reported that he is feeling better after his symptoms peaked on Christmas Day, but that he remains fatigued.

Jon Dougherty

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