In this June 18, 2021, file photo, U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks at Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

PORTLAND, Maine — Sen. Angus King said that his breakthrough case of COVID-19 produced symptoms that were double the worst head cold he’d ever experienced, and he credited the vaccine for keeping him out of the hospital.

The 77-year-old independent said he hopes his rough-and-tumble experience in which he received an infusion to help fight the virus will help others who might be on the fence about getting the vaccine.

“I’m convinced the vaccine saved my life,” he told The Associated Press.

King, who’s resting at home, said he’s feeling fine now. He has no idea whether he got the virus in Washington or at home in Maine. He was one of several senators who tested positive for the virus around the same time.

His symptoms started with a runny nose and headache, he said, and he was feeling bad enough to get tested the following day. He tested positive on Aug. 19, and began isolating at home in Maine.

The symptoms were worrisome. He said he had extreme sinus congestion and kept coughing to the point his ribs hurt. It was nearly impossible to sleep, he said.

“It was pretty bad,” the senator said Monday. “It was like the worst head cold you ever had, times two.”

Because of his age, King was provided with monoclonal antibodies during a brief visit to PenBay Medical Center. That marked the turning point, though it’s unclear how much the infusion factored into the recovery.

He said he understands that some might question the value of the vaccine — he received the Pfizer version — since he still ended up getting COVID-19. 

But he said the statistics point toward the value of the vaccine, noting that 99 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations involve those who are not vaccinated while inoculated people have milder symptoms.

He said that based on his symptoms and his age, he believes he would’ve ended up in the hospital without the vaccine.

“I really urge people to get vaccinated. The science is there. About a billion people have taken it at this point. There’s little doubt I would’ve been in the hospital in serious condition if I hadn’t been vaccinated,” he said.

Story by David Sharp, Associated Press