Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday despite having completed a full course of vaccination against the virus.
Lynch tested positive more than a week after taking the second of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and days after his office learned that a staff member had tested positive. Although both of the vaccines approved for use in the U.S. were tested to be around 95 percent effective in preventing infections, experts have cautioned that even those who have been vaccinated run the risk of becoming infected.
“This afternoon U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch received a positive test result for COVID-19 after a staff member in the Congressman’s Boston office had tested positive earlier in the week,” Lynch’s Communications Director Molly Rose Tarpey said in a statement. “Congressman Lynch had received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and subsequently received a negative COVID-19 test prior to attending President Biden’s Inauguration.”
Tarpey added that Lynch “remains asymptomatic and feels fine” but will continue to “self-quarantine and will vote by proxy in Congress during the coming weeks.” It is not clear when Lynch had the second dose of the vaccine, but maximum immunity to the virus is achieved at least one or two weeks after completing course of either approved vaccine. Pfizer has stated that protection can be expected a week after the second dose. Tarpey declined Newsweek’s request for further comment or details.
A relatively small number of those who have been fully vaccinated still contract COVID-19, although those who do get the virus after vaccination may be more likely to come down with a milder form of the illness. Only one case of severe COVID-19 was observed in a vaccinated person during Pfizer trials involving over 43,000 participants. Receiving the vaccine cannot itself cause COVID-19 because it does not contain any of the virus that would be capable of infecting a person.
Public health experts have stressed that those who have been fully vaccinated should not assume that are immune and continue to practice preventative measures like wearing face masks and maintaining social distance in order to protect themselves and others. Photos of Lynch in Congress and elsewhere in the days after the inauguration show him wearing a mask.
Another Democratic U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, Lori Trahan, tested positive for the virus only one day earlier. Francis Grubar, Trahan’s communications director, told The Boston Globe that the congresswoman had received the first of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine last week. Like Lynch, she is also said to be asymptomatic and is currently quarantining with plans to participate in House hearings and votes remotely.