Experts stress importance of second COVID-19 vaccine dose as number of skippers climbs

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Centers for Disease Control is getting nervous about a spike in people skipping the critical second COVID vaccine dose. The agency estimates up to 5 million Americans who’ve already gotten one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine aren’t getting the second.

At the University of Kansas Health System, the second dose skippers are less than 1% of the 80,000 patients vaccinated so far. Experts are worried about the impact even a handful of skippers could affect all of us.

Maria Gallegos and her husband are thankful for a COVID vaccine clinic at the University of Kansas Health System. 
 
“I think it’s great. I’ve seen on TV where people have had to travel 40 miles to go get their shots. To me that puts a lot of stress on someone besides getting the shot so I think bring this available and so close it’s great,” Gallegos said.

The couple has every intention of getting their second dose, too. 
 
“We feel that the more people who get vaccinated, we’re going to be safer out there,” Gallegos said.
 
But health experts are getting worried about a growing number of people who aren’t getting fully vaccinated. In March, about 3% of US vaccine recipients didn’t follow through with dose two. In April, that’s jumped to 8%.  

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 80% effective with only one does, but that number and how long the protection lasts soars with both doses. 

“If you only get one dose of the two-dose regimen vaccines, you’re only individually doing yourself a disservice. We know the greatest impact and greatest reduction of going to the hospital and severe disease and death occurs with those two doses,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, infectious disease specialist with University of Kansas Health System.
 
Some fear the second dose isn’t worth it because of increased side effects. But doctors insist any vaccine impacts are far less serious than COVID-19, and are safer than many medicines a lot of people take every day.

“We see every day on TV drugs or medicines that are advertised, and if you listen at the end or during the commercial, you’ll hear a litany of side effects that may occur, and these are for drugs people want to take every day and want to pay for because they improve their quality of life,” Dr. Hawkinson said.

“These vaccines are one or two doses, overall, your quality of life is going to be improved down the road,” said Dr. Hawkinson.

At KU Hospital, patients get a second shot appointment right after getting the first dose. Reminders go out through email and text messaging to make sure people show up.  If they don’t show or cancel, the team follows up with phone calls, which has been helping keep the number of second dose skippers low. 

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