Woman gets COVID-19 vaccine, then virus. Doctors say it's impossible to get from the vaccination but offer other possibilities

Posted at 10:19 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 10:05:31-05

MARKESAN — A woman who received the COVID-19 vaccination at her Markesan, Wis. nursing home at the end of December is now sick with the virus and in the hospital. Doctors believe there are a few ways she could have gotten the virus, but the vaccine isn’t one of them.

TMJ4 News featured Bonnie Ratliff on Dec. 28 when she got the vaccine. At the time she told us, “If it keeps one person from getting it you've done your thing.”

Her family said she also thought the vaccination would get her out of isolation. But now some 21 days after the vaccine she has been moved to the hospital and is in bad shape. Bonnie’s daughter Kim talked with TMJ4 on the phone Monday evening. She was headed to the hospital to hopefully visit her mom, now dealing with kidney issues, heart problems and possibly a stroke.

When asked if you can get the virus from the vaccine, University of Wisconsin Health Dr. Jeff Pothof said, “you can not. It is scientifically impossible to get COVID-19 from any of the COVID 19 vaccines.”

That’s because unlike other vaccines that use a weakened virus to create immunity, the COVID-19 vaccine uses what’s known as ‘Messenger RNA’ which essentially tells the body how to create an immunity response.

Dr. Pothof hasn’t treated Bonnie and doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of her case, but said in general it’s possible Bonnie contracted COVID-19 before she received the vaccination. It isn’t common practice to test a patient before or after a test, he said. Speaking in general about COVID patients, he said “It’s possible that they might have COVID-19 or were just recently exposed to it, and could develop symptoms before they are able to get the 2 series of shots.”

Bonnie was due for the second shot next week. Dr. Pothof says with the tens of thousands of healthcare worker vaccinations, they have seen some get sick before they get the second shot.

“The first doesn’t do a lot for you, you need to get that second dose and then 7-10 days after the second dose, that’s where they pull these high numbers from,” said Pothof. The numbers he is talking about are the 95 percent efficacy rates of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines that are currently being distributed.

The doctor says there is also a slight chance that Bonnie is one of the few people the vaccine won’t work on. “We know that the vaccines are very effective, 95% effective, but that does mean out of every 100 people 5 of them aren’t going to develop an immune response would be susceptible to COVID-19,” said Pothof.

TMJ4 News reached out to the nursing home where Bonnie got her shot to see if any others had complications or got sick after, but did not receive a reply.

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