“When my manager told me that I tested positive, I couldn’t speak for a while,” Santosh Baral tells Global News.
Baral was among Ottawa’s front-line health-care workers to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first week of the local distribution campaign in mid-December.
He says he received his first dose on Dec. 18, 2020 and his second dose on Jan. 8.
A few days after he received the second injection, Baral says he tested negative for the coronavirus as part of a routine test on Jan. 13.
But a week later, on Jan. 20, the test came back positive.
Though he says he is always diligent about following his workplace’s COVID-19 safety protocols, Baral says he immediately started scanning his memory, thinking of where he could have been exposed to the virus.
“I felt… very guilty. Maybe I missed something,” he says.
But he says he also spoke to a few experts who offered varying explanations for his post-vaccine infection.
Among the biggest caveats of the Pfizer vaccine — as well as Moderna’s version, the only other vaccine currently approved by Health Canada — is an efficacy rating of roughly 95 per cent.
That means that in clinical trials of the vaccine, 19 out of 20 people who received the jab showed protection against the virus, while the remaining five per cent did not.
“I could be the five per cent, right?” Baral says.
It also takes a period of up to 10 days after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to achieve full immunity. Baral says it’s possible he contracted the virus in the period between his first post-vaccine test and his second a week later.
So far, Baral is experiencing no symptoms but is self-isolating at home. One of the other unknowns about the vaccine is whether those who are inoculated can still spread the virus.
Despite his positive test, Baral remains high on COVID-19 vaccination. But while he encourages others to get the jab, he also says it shouldn’t be treated as a free pass to ignore public health advice such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance.
“I don’t want to discourage people to have a vaccine, but if you got the vaccine, you still need to follow the precautions,” he says.
— With files from Global News’s Bryan Mullan