Commentary: I went to a party with 14 other vaccinated people; 11 of us got COVID
Allan Massie, Commentary, The Baltimore Sun
via The Trentonian (NJ) - August 29, 2021
Massie is an epidemiologist and biomedical researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
I was sitting on an examination table at an urgent care clinic in Timonium, giving my history to a physicianís assistant. An hour later, she would call me to confirm that I was positive for COVID-19.
Given the way that I felt, it was what I expected. But it wasnít supposed to happen: Iíve been fully vaccinated for months.
Five days earlier, I had gone to a house party in Montgomery County. There were 15 adults there, all of us fully vaccinated. The next day, our host started to feel sick. The day after that, she tested positive for COVID-19. She let all of us know right away. I wasnít too worried. It was bad luck for my friend, but surely she wasnít that contagious. Surely all of us were immune. Iíd been sitting across the room from her. I figured Iíd stay home and isolate from my family for a few days, and that would be that. And even that seemed like overkill.
The official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline stated that, since I was fully vaccinated, I didnít need to do anything different unless I started developing symptoms. Iím an epidemiologist at a major medical research university, which has a dedicated COVID exposure hotline for staff. I called it, and workers said I didnít need to do anything.
Then, I started to hear that a few other people who had been at the party were getting sick. Then a few more. At this point, 11 of the 15 have tested positive for COVID.
Fortunately, none of us seems to be seriously ill. When fully vaccinated people experience so-called ďbreakthroughĒ infection, they tend not to progress to serious disease requiring hospitalization, and I expect that will be the case for us. But I can tell you that even a ďmildĒ case of COVID-19 is pretty miserable. Iíve had fever, chills and muscle aches, and Iíve been weak enough that I can barely get out of bed. I donít wish this on anybody.
Our research group at work has shown that the COVID vaccine isnít always fully effective in transplant recipients. Iím proud of the work weíve done. But once I got the vaccine, I figured the COVID battle was over for me. Out of an abundance of caution I took an antibody test shortly after my second vaccine dose. It was off the charts.
As much as I hate me and my fully vaccinated friends being sick, Iíve been thinking about what our little outbreak among means for the rest of us. Hereís what Iíve concluded:
State and local health departments, and the CDC, need to do a better job collecting and reporting data on breakthrough infections. The CDC announced in May that it was only going to collect data on breakthrough infections that led to hospitalization or death, which are fortunately rare. But that means that outbreaks like ours will fly under the radar. Any of us could infect others, apparently including other vaccinated people. Itís not clear if our group got sick because of a particularly virulent variant, because the vaccine is wearing off or for some other reason. Without good data, weíll never know.
Fully vaccinated people exposed to COVID need to isolate at home and get tested. I thought I might be overreacting by leaving work in the middle of the day and immediately moving to our basement at home. Now Iím glad I did.
Governments and businesses should considerÖ