Ever since the first two coronavirus vaccines arrived late last year, there have been occasional reports that those who had received the vaccines had nevertheless been infected anyway. One such example, 10 News in San Diego reported this week, was that of an emergency room nurse California, who reported that he got sick six days after receiving his first vaccine dose, and tested positive not long after that. That news report also said that there had been several other cases like that in the San Diego area, in the opening weeks of when vaccinations were taking place.
Do these cases, and others like them, show that the vaccines are not effective? In a word, no.
“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, a doctor and infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego, told the station.
That’s because the existing vaccines take time to work, and those who receive them do not receive complete immunity right away. And because the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were determined to be somewhere in the 90 percent range when it comes to percentage of effectiveness, that leaves a small percentage of vaccinated people who did not develop immunity.
“It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) 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 still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.”
This does not, however, means that the vaccine itself was dangerous, or that it was the vaccine itself that caused the subsequent infection. The vaccine does not contain the actual live coronavirus.
The vaccines remain effective in the overall population, by greatly reducing the number of people spreading sickness to others, and eventually paving the way for the end of the pandemic.
What remains unknown, however, is how long the immunity from vaccinations lasts, or whether any of the variants that have been reported in other parts of the world, including Brazil and South Africa, will complicate efforts to defeat the virus.
If that does happen, however, a recent CNN report said scientists are prepared.
“Doctors hope coronavirus won’t mutate like flu does. If that does happen, however, the technology used to make the new coronavirus vaccines is designed to be easily adapted. It should take far less time to update the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines than it takes to make new flu vaccines,” the report said.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.