Over 5 Million People Skipped Their Second COVID-19 Dose

by Madison Vanderberg

Over 5 million people that were due for their second Modern or Pfizer vaccine skipped it this month

As the U.S. lumbers forward towards something resembling herd immunity, some new — and disappointing — intel has come to light and it’s that over 5 million people, or 8% of the those who got a first shot of Moderna or Pfizer, have completely skipped their second dose. There are several reasons why this is happening.

The New York Times reports that based on CDC data for the time period covering March 7 to April 9, a little over 5 million people who received one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine did not go back for their second dose. This is more than double the rate of those who skipped their second dose around February.

The reasons vary, with The Times reporting that some didn’t want to risk the side effects that might come with a second dose, while others mistakenly believed that one shot would give them enough COVID-19 protection.

On the side effect front. It’s true the side effects from the second dose can kick your butt, but if you can afford to take a day off and nap and take some Tylenol, it’s worth having body aches for a day for the lasting protection against actually contracting COVID-19.

Also, for those who claim that a single dose contains enough COVID-19 protection, it’s true that one dose provides some protection (latest estimates are 80% protection against the virus), but the biggest unknown is that it’s not known how long that protection lasts if you only get the one dose. Currently, protection from the Pfizer and Modern vaccines last at least six months if you get both doses.

“Getting the second dose is going to be really important for lasting protection,” Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital told NBC News. Additionally, Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee, also told NBC News that it’s only after the second dose that you get protection against the new COVID-19 variants.

“My message all along: mRNA is only a good vaccine after 2 doses,” Hotez added on twitter. “In a single dose, both virus neutralizing antibodies and protection highly variable. We should expect many breakthrough cases with a single dose.”

Though many decided for themselves that they would not return for their second dose, some people told The Times they didn’t get their second dose because of mixups with their health providers.

The NYT reports that “Walgreens…sent some people who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get their second doses at pharmacies that only had the other vaccine on hand.” They also reported that some health providers had to cancel second doses when vaccine shipments didn’t arrive on time and apparently some people didn’t show up for their rescheduled second appointments. One woman also told the paper that she had to go to three different drug stores as they were all were out of the second-dose Pfizer vaccines she needed, despite having an appointment.

Another reasons for the missing second shots is that before the U.S. opened vaccine appointments to all Americans, a lot of younger people secured “leftover doses” at pharmacies and clinics at the end of the day. However, a lot of the clinics that gave out leftover doses could not guarantee a second appointment for a follow-up dose, leaving many scrambling to figure out where to get their second shot.

For those who are still waiting for their second dose, the CDC states that you should get your second Pfizer vaccine shot three weeks after the first, and the second Moderna dose four weeks after the first. However, if you miss your second appointment, you can still get your second dose of either vaccine as late as six weeks after the first.