ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — According to the CDC, roughly 5 million Americans haven’t shown up for their second COVID-19 vaccine shot, that’s about 8% of patients.
“That’s very low. Actually the rate of people not showing up for medical appointments is far higher than that,” said Dr. Nancy Bennett, the Head of the Finger Lakes vaccine hub.
Yet, Dr. Bennett says there has been an increase in people skipping their second shot over the past few weeks, which raises the question: Why?
According to Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Walsh with Rochester Regional Health, there may be a few reasons.
For one, some people may think they are immune to the disease after just one shot.
“There is evidence that there is immunity after the first shot, and they take this as evidence that you maybe only need a single shot,” Dr. Walsh said. “I hope they are not confusing it with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, where the trial was a single dose.”
However, it’s important people know that getting the second dose of the vaccine increases protection through additional antibodies.
“One week after the second dose, the levels will rise approximately 15-20 fold higher,” Dr. Walsh explained.
He also said having both shots helps protect against variants that are spreading throughout the community. “The UK virus does require a slightly higher level of antibody to provide protection from infection,” Dr Walsh said.
Both vaccine shots also help you know how long you will be protected, since trials were done with people who received both shots.
“Without having the second dose, we don’t know how long your immunity will last. You may be partially protected, I believe it was about 80% with Pfizer after one dose, but 95% after the second dose,” Dr. Bennett said.
There are also some concerns about side effects from the vaccine, but doctors say you shouldn’t worry.
“Many people do have some mild symptoms the day after they get their second dose. Those symptoms usually last for just a few hours, maybe a mild fever, little muscle aches, a head ache. It’s really not severe and it’s nothing compared to actually getting COVID,” Dr. Bennett said.
“The majority of people will have virtually no side effects other than a slightly sore arm for a day or two. That’s the majority. The remainder will have little bit of aches where they feel like they went out and walked 3 to 4 miles, which they haven’t done in a while,” Dr. Walsh explained.
The other reason experts believe people are missing their second shot is because they don’t have time and they have things going on in their personal lives.
“They may have become ill in the interim, they may have been hospitalized, they may have had to travel for some personal reasons,” Dr. Bennett explained.
If you are someone who missed your second vaccine shot, health official say don’t worry. You can still contact the provider of your first dose to help you reschedule.
Health officials say vaccine wastage has not been an issue in Monroe County, despite people missing appointments and less people showing up to get vaccinated overall.
“To our knowledge, we have not been told by the hub that any vaccines in our community are going to waste because of the very good work that the hub has done in building re-distribution between different vaccination sites,” Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Grounds Health said.
Norwood also said it takes a group effort to make sure people are correctly informed when getting their vaccine shot.
“Our job is to make sure that we continue to do the hard work of reaching our neighbors, finding out what our their concerns, fears, what are their information needs, and then making sure we respond,” Norwood said.