Public health officials are sounding off on the importance of getting the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, as new data from the CDC shows millions of people may have missed their second dose.
Charlotte Crain got her first dose of the Moderna vaccine about two weeks ago.
“Nothing from the first dose really happened,” said Crain. “I got really, really tired, but it was nothing that I couldn’t handle.”
Crain has another two weeks until she’s due for her second dose, but she admits from the get-go, she was hesitant and says that hesitancy is still there for her second shot.
“It just sounds like this injection is going to take me down. It’s very, very nerve-wracking,” said Crain.
Still, public health officials are pushing for people to get fully vaccinated. According to CDC data on vaccine completion status through April 9, among the people with sufficient time to get second doses, nearly 8 percent, or just over five million people, missed their second dose, compared to 3.4 percent in a recent CDC study.
The CDC says if someone got two doses from different places, those doses may not have been linked together, but overall, it explains the increase was expected as eligibility expands to more people.
“The other big reason now is people don’t want to get the second dose: it’s a hassle. You have to go and make two appointments, and it’s common knowledge, it seems to be, whether or not it’s very significant, is that the second dose you feel a little bit sicker than you did after the first dose, so there’s some of that vaccine hesitancy playing into it,” said Dr. Rachel Irby, an infectious disease physician at Largo Medical Center.
The CDC says you should get your second shot as close to the recommended time frame as possible, but your second dose may be given up to six weeks after the first if necessary. ABC Action News asked Dr. Irby about herd immunity and the impact of one dose versus two for two-dose COVID-19 vaccines.
“If we all get our second dose, then we all have a better chance of being immune, and you as an individual will have a better chance of fighting and being immune to the virus,” said Irby.
At the Tampa Greyhound Track vaccination site, coordinators say they have at least an 85 percent return rate for second doses to their site, but they explain it is possible the remaining 15 percent may be getting their second dose elsewhere.
Holly Hollingsworth, the fed site lead at the vaccination site, said they take steps to remind people to come back.
“Once they’re registered into the database, they receive not only a card that has their physical date of return on it, but they're also in the database, so the database will respond to them by whatever method they gave,” said Hollingsworth.
ABC Action News reached out to the Florida Department of Health (FLDOH) to find out how many people in the state are overdue and what they are doing to reach people who might’ve missed their second dose. We have not yet received a response.
“About 10 percent of people here in Hillsborough County who are overdue for their second shot have not come back for various reasons,” said Kevin Watler with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County. “They just didn’t show up, or they decided that they're not going to get their second shot. Some people might feel that after getting one, it's okay. They feel that that’s enough, but it’s not enough.”
Watler explained they can provide the information, but ultimately, the decision lies with each person on what they do with their health.
“You have a choice: are you going to follow the messages? Are you going to follow the guidance? So we want to encourage people to do your part,” said Watler. “If everyone wants things to resume the way it was before, it means everyone needs to get vaccinated.”
For those who are hesitant over the second dose side effects, Dr. Irby says you’ve already done the hard part of deciding to get a vaccine and have done half the work. Ultimately, Crain said she probably will get her second dose.
“I’ve come this far, might as well complete it,” said Crain.