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Doctor: COVID vaccine won't cause false-positive results

Posted at 4:17 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 20:19:49-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As Kern County residents await the first local shipments of the COVID vaccine later this week, some are asking if getting vaccinated may lead to a false positive coronavirus test. 23ABC’s Austin Westfall explains what doctors are saying you should know.

The concern is that the antibodies that come from the vaccine could trigger a false positive. But local health officials say that will not happen.

Many COVID-19 tests are also known as PCR. It’s what people take to figure out if they have the virus. It works by seeking out COVID-19’s genetic material. So people shouldn’t worry that the new vaccine may cause false-positive tests according to Adventist Health.

“Antibody testing is something different, so if you're using the PCR it’s not going to interfere,” explained Dr. Ronald Reynoso, chief medical officer for Adventist Health Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

But what about antibody tests: what people take to find out if they’ve had COVID in the past? That conclusion is similar.

Dr. Reynoso said the chances are very slim that a vaccine could cause a false positive on an antibody test. But still, he said it is technically possible. Reynoso said from everything he’s gathered the general public should consider taking the vaccine once it is made more widely available.

“If you wanna stretch it, yeah it could potentially happen, but it is very unlikely,” said Dr. Reynoso. “With all the investigations that are being conducted, you know, it is safe to take.”

Dr. Reynoso said he and his colleagues will be taking the vaccine as soon as it is available in Kern County. He, along with many other healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the pandemic will be among the first to be vaccinated in the state. He could not say when exactly the vaccinations are expected for workers at Adventist, which come any time now, which is hugely welcomed after what he describes as an exhausting nine months of pandemic care.

“It helps tremendously. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re not completely there yet, but we’re hopeful,” said Dr. Reynoso.

The California Department of Public Health said experts are still looking at how the vaccine can affect antibody tests so all information is fluid. 23ABC has not heard of the first vaccine being given in Kern County just yet.