Nurse tests positive for COVID-19 week after getting vaccine; experts remind shot needs time to work

SAN DIEGO — An emergency room nurse said he has tested positive for COVID-19 despite getting the coronavirus vaccine. But experts say just because people are getting the vaccine, it doesn’t provide protection against the virus immediately and that patients’ bodies need time to develop antibodies.

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The nurse, identified as Matthew W., said he got the vaccine on Dec. 18. His arm was sore from the injection but he had no other side effects. On Dec. 24 he got sick, developing chills, muscle aches and fatigue. He had worked a shift in a COVID-19 unit at one of the two hospitals he serves. On Dec. 26 the 45-year-old nurse tested positive for COVID-19.

But an infectious disease expert says he’s not surprised that the nurse developed the illness.

“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 told KGTV.

Ramers, who is part of the clinical advisory panel for the San Diego County’s vaccine rollout, said Matthew could have been infected before getting the vaccine or he could have gotten the virus after the shot.

Other doctors agree that the nurse was exposed around the same time as receiving the vaccine.

“It’s a sad coincidence that if somebody has already been exposed and gotten vaccinated, the vaccine doesn’t work within days. I mean it does work within days but certainly not in less than a week,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado told KGO.

“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 KGTV.

He told the news station that the vaccine does not give immediate protection, adding that the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine gives about 50% protection and that a second dose increases the protection to 95%.

The Moderna vaccine gives some protection within two weeks, KGO reported.

“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,” Ramers told KGTV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that when you get the vaccine you still should wear masks and avoid close contact to prevent the spread of the illness.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC has put together this web page that helps answer questions patients may have.

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