TV: Several vaccinated elderly tested positive for COVID, but had no symptoms

Report says health officials investigating whether results indicate those who have been inoculated can still be infectious, without getting sick themselves

Illustrative: An elderly woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2021 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: An elderly woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2021 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An internal Health Ministry report indicates that some of the elderly vaccinated against coronavirus may test positive and possibly infect others, but not suffer serious symptoms, according to a report Thursday night.

Channel 12 News reported that recent tests at nursing homes, where all residents have received both doses of the vaccine and are considered to be fully protected, indicated several people as positive for coronavirus.

But none of those people developed any symptoms, despite their advanced age, the network said.

It said the ministry was continuing to investigate as it attempts to ascertain whether vaccine immunity allows a person to remain a contagious carrier of the virus.

Despite the relatively high number of vaccinations in the Israeli population and weeks of lockdown, the virus continues to run rampant, largely due to its more contagious variants, and the country remains under lockdown until Sunday.

Health officials have expressed concern that some of the variants may be more resistant to the current coronavirus vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna, which produce the vaccines used in Israel, have said their shots appear to be slightly less effective in preventing the so-called South African strain of the virus, though the companies say they remain quite potent.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 photo, a medic administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a fellow medic during a campaign to vaccinate frontline medical workers, at the health ministry, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

The Health Ministry has been reviewing whether to continue to exempt fully vaccinated individuals from quarantine after contact with a known carrier or return from abroad, due to the ongoing high morbidity in the country, and fears that vaccinated individuals can still pass the virus on to others.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not made with the coronavirus itself, meaning that there is no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccines contain a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus and create antibodies to attack if it encounters the real thing.

It is possible that while one’s body would be largely protected from the virus after vaccination, mucous layers in the nasal passages, beyond the reach of some antibodies, could still harbor multiplying virus particles.

While these would not harm the carrier — as any virus that enters deeper into the body would swiftly be destroyed by the trained immune system — they could still be expelled through the nose and mouth and infect others.

Though Israel is leading the world in vaccinations per capita, it is also suffering its worst wave of infections since the start of the pandemic, with some 7,000 daily cases and 1,040 seriously ill patients as of Friday morning. The death toll now stands at 5,001.

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