Congressman Espaillat Tests Positive for COVID-19 After Getting Vaccine; Here’s What a Doctor Makes of It

Espaillat speaking on the floor of the House before the Impeachment vote.

By Jacob Rose

Representative Adriano Espaillat, the Democratic congressman who represents much of upper Manhattan and part of the northwest Bronx in New York’s 13th congressional district, tweeted Thursday morning that he had tested positive with COVID-19 after receiving a second vaccine dose “last week.”

The Rag spoke with Dr. David Buchholz, a general pediatrician and founding medical director for primary care at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, to make sense of Espaillat’s positive result as the vaccine rollout stumbles forward across the Upper West Side and the rest of New York.

“I received the second dose of the #COVID19vaccine last week and understand the affects take time,” Espaillat’s tweet reads. Espaillat tweeted a photo of himself receiving a first dose of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine on December 19.

Espaillat, who on Thursday said he was not experiencing any symptoms, had traveled from New York to Washington D.C. for Donald Trump’s impeachment vote—where he spoke—just prior to his positive result. He’s at least the fourth congressperson to test positive in the last week, after Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Bonnie Coleman (D-NJ), and Brad Schneider (D-IL) all tested positive, which they traced to being stuck in a “safe room” with unmasked Republican congress members during the mob attack on the Capitol.  It’s unclear if Espaillat was in the safe room, but he did say in an interview with New York 1 around 4 p.m. that day — nearly 2 hours after the mob first entered Capitol building — that he had been in his office “all day.”

According to Dr. Buchholz, Congressman Espaillat may have just gotten unlucky. Two weeks after receiving a first dose, recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have between a 52 and 80 percent chance of receiving the vaccine’s “maximum benefit,” Buchholz said. Two weeks after a second dose, they are 95 percent likely to receive its maximum benefit. Since Espaillat tested positive less than two weeks after his second shot—before the vaccine can produce full protection—Buchholz says that he had somewhere between a 52 and 95 percent chance of receiving the vaccine’s maximum benefit. It appears that Espaillat just fell outside that fortunate majority.

Buchholz noted that 59 percent of people with COVID-19 “never show symptoms,” including among the small minority of people who do not get the vaccine’s maximum benefit. And even within that smaller group, it’s believed that those who have received the vaccine experience fewer symptoms than they would without it.

Buchholz did caution that once you’re immunized, you still may be able to spread COVID-19. “We don’t know, if you’re fully vaccinated and either get the disease or become positive but not have symptoms, if you can actually transmit it to another person. We don’t have that answer.”

In any case, Buchholz said, “We all have to wear masks, we all have to social distance, we all have to wash our hands. Because we could be that small percentage that didn’t get the response we were hoping for, and we have to continue to protect ourselves and others.”

NEWS | 15 comments | permalink
    1. Out-Of-Stater says:

      Crazy!!! Excellent reporting.

    2. Drg says:

      Even if it was more than 2 weeks since the second shot…
      If the vaccine is 95% effective, and one million people get it…..
      statistically 50,000 of them are STILL at risk for the disease.
      These stories are completely expected, and one could argue NOT newsworthy. In fact this type of reporting may cause people to be reluctant to be vaccinated.

    3. alicia says:

      One question would be why they feel they got it from “unmasked Republican congress members?” Yet we haven’t heard about any Republican congress members having Covid-19 on that day or since.

    4. Ardith says:

      On the contrary, I think it’s important to report and follow these cases. If vaccinated people who test positive are repeatedly shown not to have serious symptoms, the vaccine is protective enough and definitely worthwhile getting.

    5. Susan says:

      How about testing people for Covid prior to getting the vaccine?

    6. Naomi Bishop says:

      When the effectiveness studies were done by the drug companies, only symptomatic vaccine recipients were tested (after being vaccinated), so it is not known how many people still got the virus but showed no symptoms. This is a source of confusion in the interpretation of the results, and is the reason why the question of whether people can transmit the virus after being vaccinated still remains unanswered. The vaccine does not necessarily prevent infection with the virus, what it prevents is severe symptoms of COVID-19 disease.

    7. LH says:

      If he was fully vaccinated, any he had no symptoms,why was he tested? Because of the Capitol incident?
      If that’s the only reason, I can see a spate of transmissions from the selfish vaccinated who toss the mask after the shots. Would that all of us could access
      the vaccine with the ease of Congress. Joe has a tremendous task.

      • G.locke says:

        These politicians keep traveling back and forth. They can get tested and vaccinated more easily than ordinary people. Perhaps their needs are greater too than age and health matched counterparts as they are exposed to more interactions.

    8. UWSider says:

      The big scandal here is why politicians were allowed to get vaccinated ahead of elderly people and health care workers, the ones that are most at risk. Despicable. But the leftist mainstream media won’t talk about that.

    9. sashalinda says:

      Drg makes a good, simple point. Please let’s all pay attention to science and statistics and not just throw our hands up and say nothing works and no one understands anything.