We keep hearing about it in the news. Someone tests positive for the coronavirus even though they already received one or two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. In recent weeks, it’s happened to at least three members of Congress, a Hall of Fame basketball coach, and a nurse in California.
Isn’t the vaccine supposed to prevent this from happening? Before you think vaccines don’t work, experts say cases like these are not surprising and do not indicate that there was anything wrong with the vaccines or how they were administered. Keep on reading to find out why.
Vaccines don’t work instantly.
It can take weeks for the body to start building up antibodies after receiving your first shot. And the vaccines now in use in the U.S., from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both require a second shot a few weeks after the first to reach full effectiveness.
In addition, individuals who previously tested negative during a screening may still have been already infected and not know about it before getting vaccinated.
The vaccines prevent illness, but maybe not infection. Covid vaccines are being authorized based on how well they keep you from getting sick, needing hospitalization and dying.
Scientists don’t know yet how effective the vaccines are at preventing the coronavirus from infecting you to begin with, or at keeping you from passing it on to others. (That’s why vaccinated people should keep wearing masks and maintaining social distance.)
According to the NYTimes, even the best vaccines aren’t perfect. The efficacy rates for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are extremely high, but they are not 100 percent. With the virus still spreading out of control in the U.S., some of the millions of recently vaccinated people were bound to get infected in any case.
That’s most likely what happened to Congressman Stephen Lynch after he received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the beginning of January. A spokesperson for Lynch said in a statement that his positive test result came after a staffer in his Boston office tested positive.
“Congressman Lynch had received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and subsequently received a negative COVID-19 test prior to attending President Biden’s Inauguration,” said Molly Rose Tarpey, Lynch’s communications director. “While Mr. Lynch remains asymptomatic and feels fine, he will self-quarantine and will vote by proxy in Congress during the coming week.”
Congresswoman Lori Trahan, had this to say about testing positive for COVID-19.
“I am fortunate to currently be asymptomatic, and I have immediately begun to self-quarantine,” Trahan said in a statement posted to Twitter, adding that she would “cast my votes next week using the House’s proxy voting system.”
So far, more than 436,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, and nearly 26 million have contracted the virus.