Authors: Fenit Nirappil The Washington Post Aug. 31, 2021
Andrew Kinsey knew that even after being vaccinated against the coronavirus, there was a chance he could still fall ill with covid-19.
He just never expected to feel this lousy from a case doctors call mild.
For nearly a week, Kinsey felt like he had been “run over by a truck.” He struggled to walk a few steps and to stay awake through episodes of the TV show “Doomsday Preppers.” He returned to work last Monday as a corporate litigator but needs midday naps.
“The vaccine appears to have worked to protect my lungs, so that kept me from having life-threatening symptoms, but at the same time, a so-called mild course can be . . . sort of the sickest I’ve ever been in my life,” said Kinsey, who is 38 and lives with his wife and three children in Pennsylvania. “It’s important for people to know that what they picture in their head of a bad cold isn’t necessarily what will actually happen even if they get a mild course.”
Kinsey and other vaccinated people who develop breakthrough cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, are learning a mild case may not seem so mild to the person enduring the infection. Those cases can be as modest as a few days of sniffles, but, in other circumstances, can spawn debilitating headaches and fatigue. Symptoms can persist longer than the usual cold.
But public health authorities and scientists stress that research overwhelmingly shows that coronavirus vaccines are keeping people out of the hospital and that most breakthrough cases are mild or moderate.
Seven vaccinated people who ended up sicker than they expected shared their stories and said they did not want to cast doubt on vaccines – because they believe their outcome would have been much worse had they not been inoculated. Instead, they said they want to help fellow vaccinated people weigh their risks as they decide when to wear a mask and whether to attend a wedding or travel for vacation. They also do not want people to assume a mild case is trivial.
Kinsey is re-examining how he weighs risk this upcoming school year after his family’s battle with the virus. He’s not sure how he and his wife, Lisa, who is also vaccinated, were exposed. They are generally cautious and wear masks to protect their daughter Sarah, who is too young for vaccines at age 8 and has significant medical issues.
Sarah also contracted the virus and was hospitalized for nearly two weeks, later mostly recovering while her vaccinated siblings stayed healthy. For at least several months, the family expects to have protection from natural and vaccine-induced antibodies. But Kinsey says his experience was a reminder of the urgency of paying close attention to the changing understanding of the virus.
Matt Longman, who is 41 and lives in Tucson, Ariz., said he had a 103-degree fever, experienced aches in his elbows and toes like he had never encountered before and could not stop shaking even after wrapping himself in three blankets. Longman fears he would have ended up in the hospital had he not been vaccinated, especially because his immune system is weakened from migraine treatments.