Volume 1 of my Covid chronicles (2020) dealt with two anxiety-provoking instances of being tagged by the federal government’s (now defunct) Covid app and then taking PCR tests that turned out negative, as well as invigorating spring walks on golf courses that were closed to golfers. Volume 2 (2021) recounts my experience as a participant in the Ontario Health Study being tested for antibodies. I didn’t have antibodies just after receiving my first vaccination, but I definitely did four months after receiving my second shot.
Getting (Over) Omicron
This year’s volume is about getting, and getting over, Omicron. One of our kids, a millennial, started sniffling and a few days later my wife and I both were showing symptoms. All three of us then took rapid tests and tested positive. Our other child, also a millennial, tested negative. For most millennials, Covid is over and this makes them susceptible to Omicron, as are those who live with them.
I received my first booster in November 2021 and my second booster on April 22, 2022. I tested positive on Tuesday, May 10, less than three weeks after the second booster. However, my symptoms were very mild, essentially a sore throat and slight fatigue. As soon as the test result came back, I visited the Covid assessment centre at a nearby hospital and received a prescription for a 5-day course of Paxlovid. Within a day, the Paxlovid eliminated the symptoms. As soon as I completed the course of Paxlovid, I took another rapid test, and tested negative.
But shortly after the negative test, the sore throat returned. While I had the sore throat, I took a third rapid test, this time testing positive. After a few more days, the sore throat went away. Though I don’t remember the dates of the second and third rapid test, I do remember that I took a fourth rapid test on May 26 and tested negative. I had to see a doctor that day about something else and did not want to put them at risk. I consider myself very fortunate that Covid was such a minor annoyance and nothing worse.
A Super-spreader Event?
I attended my fiftieth undergraduate reunion from June 5 to 8 at Harvard, along with some 700 other people, most from all over the US and a few from other countries. I took a rapid test the day before I went to the reunion, as was required by the US Government at the time – not that Air Canada or Customs and Border Protection at Pearson Airport asked for the results. And, as recommended by the reunion organizers, I tested every day at the reunion. All the tests were negative and I felt fine.
The reunion organizers asked people who came down with Covid the week after the reunion to notify them. Twenty-three of the 700 attendees did, a not-insignificant number, but hardly a super-spreader. Interestingly, one of the people who came down with Covid sat beside me for an hour at an indoors brunch on June 8. I didn’t catch Covid from them, and indeed have had no Covid symptoms since mid-May.
The Plural of Anecdote is Data
Epidemiological science builds on individual experience, expressed either anecdotally or as data points in a study. I had a very mild reaction to Covid. Essentially, it was a cold that stayed in my throat and didn’t spread to my sinuses or my lungs, as common colds often do. I would have to think that the two booster shots, both Pfizer, reduced the impact of Covid on me. My wife, who is not yet eligible for a second booster, had a somewhat more severe case of Covid than me. I surmise that my additional protection contributed to the difference.
There appears to be growing evidence that Paxlovid initially reduces symptoms, but recipients then have rebound infections. That certainly was my experience, as well as that of a friend (another anecdote!). I reported my outcome to Pfizer Canada to add to their database.
At the reunion, I was masked at indoor events, but there were many meals, both indoors and outdoors, where I wasn’t masked. I think that, in addition to two boosters, my mild case of Covid acted as a third booster, and I was flush with antibodies. The Ontario Health Study is testing participants for antibody levels. I was tested early in April; given subsequent events, it’s unfortunate I wasn’t tested in May or June. However, the study tests thousands of people and it will have tested many who have had two boosters as well as a case of Covid. Hopefully, the study will help us understand more about the complex relationships among vaccination, having had Covid, antibody levels over time, and immunity.
What are the implications of my experience for my behaviour in the future?
Unlike some of my contemporaries, I am in frequent contact with people much younger than myself. Some of it is with former students, which at least in summer can take place outdoors. But our kids are millennials and live with us.
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Our other child – the one who tested negative previously – has mild symptoms and has tested positive. They are now staying home. They other three of us who all had Covid last month have no symptoms, but are being careful.
The second issue is vaccination. Currently, only 50 percent of Ontario’s population has received one booster – a very disappointing number. And, despite the widespread availability of vaccine, eligibility for a second booster is limited to those over 60, people living in congregate settings, indigenous people, and the immunocompromised. The province is promising to roll out another vaccination program in the fall, again starting with the elderly. I think it would be enormously unfair if I’m eligible for a third booster because I am over 70 while my wife is not eligible for a second one because she is under 60.
The summer, with its relatively low case count, is the time to plan for the fall and winter wave(s) of Covid. So far, the Government of Ontario is silent about its plans.
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