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'After you get that first dose, you're still vulnerable' | Expert urges caution after getting coronavirus vaccine

Mark Pauley got the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 12. Three days later the 67-year-old tested positive, and spent nearly a week in the hospital.

SAN ANTONIO — Mark Pauley got the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 12. Three days later, the 67-year-old tested positive. 

Pauley said he spent five days in the hospital.

"The whole time, they're watching your air, your breathing," Pauley said.

He's not sure if he was exposed before or after getting the vaccine.

"There's no way to know," Pauley said. "I was kind of surprised, to be honest with you."

Dr. Jason Bowling said what happened to Pauley isn't uncommon. The epidemiologist at University Health said it takes time for your immune system to process the vaccine.

"So after you get that first dose, you're still vulnerable," Dr. Bowling said. "And really when they looked at the results for the studies, it was one to two weeks after the second dose before they started seeing that protection."

While the vaccine provides another layer of armor, Bowling said it doesn't make you invincible. 

"With the widespread transmission that we're still seeing currently in the San Antonio area, it's really important that people continue to protect themselves," Bowling said.

Bowling said it's not the vaccine that makes you sick.

"None of the vaccines that are approved or that are in the pipeline right now use a live virus," Bowling said. "They only have parts of the virus, not the entire virus which is what can infect you."

Even after both doses, Bowling said you'll still want to stick to the three Ws.

"They need to wear their mask, watch their distance and wash their hands," Bowling said.

Pauley got the second dose of his vaccine on Tuesday. He's relieved and fully prepared to be just as careful as he was before.

"Oh it's great just to know that it's done," Pauley said. "I trust the science. You win in numbers, you know. The more people get it, the less chance of the virus."

Bowling said those who test positive after their first dose should move forward with their second. He said the data shows you need both shots to experience the highest level of protection and a longer duration of that protection. He added that it's important to wait until you're out of your 10-day self-isolation period to make sure you're not at risk of transmitting the virus to other people waiting for their vaccine. 

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