05/04/2021 / By Ramon Tomey
A woman from Alaska contracted the Wuhan coronavirus a second time despite getting the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. Palmer resident Kim Akers first tested positive for the pathogen last year, subsequently recovering from a bout of COVID-19. She then got vaccinated using the J&J jab – only to find that she contracted the coronavirus again.
The 50-year-old school administrator shared her story with Anchorage Daily News (ADN). Akers’s first encounter with COVID-19 started when she had a bout of the disease in December 2020. Among the symptoms she experienced included body aches and “an unusually intense headache.” Palmer recovered from this first bout.
Three months later, she got vaccinated against the disease in early March. Despite having an underlying health condition, she surmised that it would be better to err on the side of caution. Akers received the J&J one-dose vaccine on March 5 before spending a weekend with family and friends at Lake Louise in Canada. She thought she was already protected after gaining immunity from the first COVID-19 bout and two weeks after getting the jab.
But this would not be the case. Akers experienced fatigue, nausea and chest pains – prompting her to tell her family she wanted to go home. She then drove back to Palmers with her children, where she experienced a massive headache. “I didn’t believe at that moment that it was, until I got home and thought about my symptoms – and realized this headache is what I remember. Then I lost my taste and smell,” she said.
The 50-year-old then got tested for COVID-19 as a precaution, thinking that she did not have the virus. The test showed a positive result, and she spent three days nursing a headache. Akers subsequently recovered from this second bout of the disease, albeit her sense of taste and smell have yet to return.
“It would be great if it completely protected you, but that’s not what [the] vaccine is supposed to do. It’s to keep you out of the hospital and prevent death and, hopefully, lessen your symptoms,” Akers told ADN. She furthermore emphasized the importance of wearing face masks and maintaining proper distance to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), a total of 177 have reported testing positive for the Wuhan coronavirus post-vaccination as of the first week of April. These 177 Alaskans comprised less than one percent of people who completed their vaccine doses. DHSS Spokesman Clinton Bennett told ADN that only about a dozen of the 177 “breakthrough patients” such as Akers tested positive for the pathogen twice.
As of writing, health officials at the Last Frontier are closely examining the breakthrough cases. They have made use of genomic sequencing to see if so-called variants of concern are involved, but nothing has emerged yet. “[This] makes it difficult to determine if there are specific [virus strains] that are evading immunity, or the person’s immune system [is] not adequately responding to vaccination.” (Related: Expert virologist urges WHO to halt mass vaccination for coronavirus, warns about deadly “viral immune escape”.)
A number of medical experts have speculated that Wuhan coronavirus vaccines can provide more protection compared to natural antibodies produced by the immune system post-sickness. However, these do not prevent the transmission of the pathogen responsible for COVID-19. An Israeli study found that the South African B1351 variant infects vaccinated people eight times more than unvaccinated ones.
Researchers from the Tel Aviv University and Israeli health care provider Clalit Health Services looked at swab samples from vaccinated Israelis who tested positive for the coronavirus. The patients whose samples were analyzed received the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech Wuhan coronavirus vaccine. They found that the B1351 strain was eight times more prevalent in vaccinated individuals compared to those yet to receive their jabs.
“Based on patterns in the general population, we would have expected just one case of the South African variant – but we saw eight. Obviously, this result didn’t make me happy,” lead researcher Adi Stern remarked. Her team’s findings suggested that the South African variant could more successfully break through immunity afforded by vaccines compared to other strains. (Related: Houston physician warns Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines don’t provide immunity against coronavirus.)
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