A 90-year-old Winnipeg man is battling symptoms of COVID-19, but it could be worse: he is fighting the illness while fully vaccinated.
Mike (who asked his last name not be used by the Free Press) said about a week ago he started getting symptoms, including sniffles, hoarse voice, runny nose, and a chest cough. They all mirror asthma issues Mike has had for years, but he and his wife both decided to get tested for the novel coronavirus just in case.
When the tests came back, Mike tested positive for COVID, while his wife, Lillian, tested negative.
"I'm glad we have the vaccines now," Lillian said Monday.
"I'm really happy we both had had the one dose for sure before he contracted this. At least we have the antibodies for this." Mike had his second dose of the vaccine around the time he unknowingly contracted the virus, while Lillian has yet to receive her second shot.
"I'm really happy we both had had the one dose for sure before he contracted this. At least we have the antibodies for this." — Lillian
Studies around the world have shown while a person can still be infected with COVID, even when fully vaccinated, the vaccines appear to be effective at reducing both symptoms and ability to be infected.
Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba, said no vaccine is 100 per cent effective against prevention of either severe disease or infection.
"With the Pfizer vaccine, the high efficacy that we have heard about is in regards to prevention of disease," said Kindrachuk.
"While there is growing compelling data to suggest that the mRNA vaccines, including the Pfizer product, are effective at reducing our ability to become infected following vaccination, this is still preliminary and again is not 100 per cent."
As well, Kindrachuk said: "We have to remember that there are a very small percentage of cases where symptoms of disease may still occur, as well as the ability to be infected.
"However, these are very significantly reduced following vaccination and highlight how important the vaccination campaigns as a mechanism for us to end the pandemic."
"We have to remember that there are a very small percentage of cases where symptoms of disease may still occur, as well as the ability to be infected." — Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba
Lillian said because the couple have been vigilantly isolating for months — even having groceries delivered — there are few places her husband could have contracted COVID-19.
"That's the irony. He hasn't gone anywhere except medical appointments," she said.
"He had two doctor's appointments and he received the Pfizer vaccine at the (downtown Winnipeg) convention centre. But we were at the convention centre for awhile, and there were hundreds there. We've heard other people here (seniors residence) have COVID in the building, so he could have got it in the hallway or riding down the elevator.
"We just don't know for sure."
While Mike's case of COVID is deemed mild, the couple are taking it very seriously because he is sick, has an underlying condition, it could still get worse, and they don't know if the case is a variant of concern.
"The public health nurse is checking every day," she said.
"It appears he contracted it probably before the second dose. It appears he had all of the benefits of the first dose and the antibodies to start working, but he must have contracted it before or at the time of the second shot.
"We're hoping he doesn't get any worse."
Lillian said she will be tested again this week. If she continues to be negative, she will be able to get out of isolation later this month.
Meanwhile, she urged others who test positive for COVID to register for the federal government's COVID alert app.
"Shortly after we put it into my husband's phone, the alert came up on my phone," said Lillian. "It works."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.