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Virologist explains how KIRO Radio’s Gee Scott still got COVID after first vaccine dose

A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Since none of the current COVID-19 vaccines are 100% effective at preventing infection, there’s always a chance you could get ill after getting your first dose, or after your second. KIRO Radio’s Gee Scott tested positive this week after having received his first shot.

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After two negative test results, Gee’s third recent test for COVID-19 was positive. He has received one vaccine shot already, prior to testing positive, but his diagnosis shouldn’t scare anyone away from the vaccines.

“What people should know is that the vaccines are incredibly effective,” said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist and weekly guest of the Gee and Ursula Show. “I just got my vaccine yesterday. I got a single dose of Johnson & Johnson, and I have a lot of peace of mind knowing that I have excellent protection against getting sick from COVID-19, but I don’t have complete, 100% protection.”

“There is no such thing as any vaccine that provides absolute protection against infection,” she added. “And there will be a small number of people who get the vaccine who become infected, especially if they haven’t gone two weeks after getting their second shot of the Pfizer vaccine that he got.”

Rasmussen says Gee is one of the unlucky few who had what’s called a “breakthrough infection,” which is an infection in a vaccinated person.

“It does happen, and people shouldn’t be alarmed by that,” she said. “That’s completely normal.”

“What people should keep in mind is that getting that vaccination actually will ensure that you are less likely to have severe illness,” Rasmussen noted. “All of the vaccines are extremely protective against severe COVID-19, against hospitalization, and against death, and it sounds like Gee has actually had a pretty mild course of disease. That’s probably because he was partially protected by that vaccine.”

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There’s no way to know for sure if the first dose is responsible for Gee’s milder symptoms, but Dr. Rasmussen says that it’s known from clinical trials and some real world data that after having just one shot, you’re fairly well protected against symptomatic disease two weeks later.

“So it’s reasonable to think that if you had not had that one shot or that second shot, that you could have had a much worse case of COVID-19 if you weren’t protected at all,” she said to Gee.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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