Ask Dr. Nandi: Second shot no-shows could undermine COVID-19 vaccination efforts

Posted at 5:40 PM, Dec 07, 2020

(WXYZ) — As we await the FDA’s upcoming decision regarding Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine candidate, experts are concerned that second shot no-shows could impact vaccination efforts. And open the door for the virus to mutate.

As you know, both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine candidates are 94 and 95% effective against COVID-19. And to get that efficacy rate for these two particular vaccines, you need two doses spaced a few weeks apart.

So some folks may think, “well, one jab is enough and I’m okay with whatever protection that may give.”

But here’s the problem. Viruses are smart and they are clever. And one dose may not be enough for a person’s immune system to build up the proper immunity. So the virus could potentially develop a response, learn how to adapt, and become vaccine-resistant.

Now I am not saying this is going to happen, but that it is a possibility if millions of people skip the second dose. And I think it's something that health officials do need to track and keep an eye on.

Let me give you an example. The vaccine for shingles – that viral infection that causes a painful rash – requires two shots. And roughly 80% of folks who get the first treatment do not return for the second treatment.

Now, there are experts already predicting that roughly 30% of people may not return for their second coronavirus shot because of how they reacted to the first shot. And part of that could be because of the potential side effects like flu-like reactions, fatigue, and headaches. But we have got to remember that these are only temporary and do go away.

The plan is to give out index cards when you get your first vaccine shot. It’s really important to keep this card because it’ll have the vaccine lot number plus a reminder for your next appointment for the second shot.

If you’re like many people, there’s a real possibility of losing or misplacing this card so I would suggest that you take a photo of it as a backup.

Now, besides the index card, the CDC has a tracking system. It was initially created for patients to report side effects. But the current plan is for that system to send patients text and email reminders. I’m just not sure when it will be up and running.

But the hospital, clinic, or the place where you got the first shot will likely have a scheduling system already in place, which will certainly help folks remember to get their second dose.

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