'Stay diligent': How Christmas in July led to a vaccinated Saskatoon man's breakthrough COVID-19 case

·2 min read
Jack Saddleback tested positive for COVID-19 after two doses of the vaccine and now says people should remain diligent in efforts to avoid the illness, even if they are fully vaccinated. (Omayra Issa/CBC - image credit)
Jack Saddleback tested positive for COVID-19 after two doses of the vaccine and now says people should remain diligent in efforts to avoid the illness, even if they are fully vaccinated. (Omayra Issa/CBC - image credit)

Jack Saddleback and his spouse each had two doses of COVID-19 vaccines and thought they saw a light at the end of the tunnel in Saskatchewan's fight against the illness, with vaccination rates rising and case numbers falling.

Then he became a "breakthrough case" — someone who contracts the illness caused by the coronavirus despite having two vaccine doses.

Those cases are still rare — only about one in 10 of the new cases reported in Saskatchewan Friday involved people who were fully vaccinated, according to the province's COVID-19 dashboard. A provincial report for August said the breakthrough rate for that month was just over 16 per cent.

The chance of a fully vaccinated person getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 is even less likely, experts say.

Saddleback told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning he suspects he contracted the virus after taking part in a "Christmas in July" celebration with family in Alberta.

When he returned to Saskatoon, he took a rapid test to ensure he was negative before engaging in community interactions through his work with the LGBTQ support organization OUTSaskatoon.

But his test came back positive and he immediately isolated.

"I was frustrated. For this whole time, if folks had been following along with some of the work that myself and OUTSaskatoon does, we've been on the front lines since the very beginning," Saddleback said.

He reflected on last April and May, when a number of organizations banded together to create an emergency support services hub in Saskatoon. Extensive efforts were made to support people who needed help in the city, Saddleback said, and he managed to avoid the coronavirus at that time.

But Saddleback says despite having two vaccines, all it took to contract COVID-19 was letting his guard down temporarily, even just for a few moments.

His husband, he said, was lucky enough to not catch the virus. The pair had an emergency plan they put into motion as soon as the positive test came back.

After his experience as a breakthrough case, and given his work with some of Saskatoon's most vulnerable, Saddleback said he wants to remind everyone vaccination alone won't necessarily protect against contracting the virus.

"We must keep diligent in washing our hands and in masking up and in not touching our faces, not touching these aspects of ourselves that could transmit the virus into a double-vaccinated person," he said.

That also means watching out for any COVID-19 symptoms, he said, "even if you have a slight sniffle."

"You know, coming home … I was tired, I was like, 'I'm on vacation' — it's tough, to then take that rapid test," he said.

"Stay diligent."

LISTEN | Jack Saddleback shares frustrations after postive COVID-19 test:

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