What if shortages cause your second dose of the COVID vaccine to be delayed?

Soldiers carrying boxes of COVID vaccine - second dose delayed
Photo via The National Guard/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Biden Administration is currently ramping up COVID-19 production and distribution in an attempt to recover from the “complete incompetence” of former President Trump’s plan. Biden recently pledged to deliver 100 million vaccines in 100 days, but in reality, the administration is still unsure of how much vaccine is even available to distribute. Will a nationwide shortage cause second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be delayed?

The situation is starting to cause panic among people who have received their first dose of the vaccine and those who are about to receive their first dose. The uncertainty has left some wondering if it may be necessary to “restart” the vaccination process once quantities are readily available.

The situation is not as bleak as it appears on the surface. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the second dose be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible, but there is a fair amount of leeway if it’s not feasible to do so.

The agency says it is perfectly safe to administer the second dose up to six weeks, or 42 days, after the first dose. There is currently limited data on the efficacy of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines administered beyond six weeks, but in either case, the CDC believes there is no need to restart the series, even if the second dose of vaccine is delayed.

It may be worth noting, for anyone feeling antsy about getting their second dose, that the CDC advises against getting the second dose earlier than the recommended three weeks—save for a “grace period” of four days.

Tony Moody, an infectious-disease expert at Duke University, told Bloomberg that getting the second dose beyond the six-week window is “probably fine,” based on what we know about other vaccines.

“We know that the timing between vaccinations is more about the minimum time between doses, not maximum,” Moody said. “For other vaccines that require two doses, studies have shown that having a longer time between doses is OK.”

“The thinking is if we can get more people to have a single shot, more people will have some protection,” he added. “If we can get some protection for many people, that may help blunt the pandemic and reduce hospitalization rates.”

For those who have to wait a little longer for the second dose, rest assured knowing it won’t throw off your vaccination. Regardless, it continues to be necessary to mask up, wash your hands, and practice social distancing—with or without a second dose of the vaccine.

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: CDC, Bloomberg

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