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Should You Be Concerned About Getting Your Second COVID-19 Shot On Time?

What are your questions about the coronavirus vaccine?

ideastream's health team is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can send us your questions with our online form, through our social media group, or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Carol from Brook Park asked, “What are you supposed to do if they run out of vaccines when you are due for the second dose?”

Despite concerns nationwide about shortages of the COVID-19 vaccine and supply chain issues, health officials are not anticipating running out of vaccines for people who have already received their first dose, said Dr. Brook Watts, chief medical officer at MetroHealth.

“We’re all feeling OK about the next couple weeks,” Watts said. 

Although she does not have specific concerns about second doses not being available, Watts acknowledged that “overall, there simply is not enough vaccine available," she said.

States are not getting a huge allotment of doses at one time and often cannot predict when shipments will arrive.

When vaccines were given to front line health care workers at MetroHealth, second doses were scheduled ahead of time, Watts said.

They are not doing that anymore because they are not sure the exact date of when shipments will get there, she said.

The second dose for the Pfizer vaccine is due about 21 days after the first dose, and 28 days for the Moderna shots.

There is no evidence that delaying the second by a few days for either vaccine is harmful, Watts said.

“There’s really quite a long tail of an appropriate window to get it after it’s due,” Watts said.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the groups that provide us guidance on the vaccine, have not provided us any maximum window at this point," she said.

In fact, it’s more of a concern to get the second dose too early. As is common with other vaccines, getting a second shot too soon after the first can reduce its effectiveness, experts have said.

Current analysis from the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials is that the first dose is what gives you protection from COVID-19, while the second dose is more of a booster and gives a longer amount of protection, especially with the Moderna vaccine, Watts said.

“We really encourage people to get their second dose on time, which depends on which vaccine you got, but if you have to go longer, for whatever reason … there isn’t a time frame that is too late,” she said.

It is also crucial that people get their second shot from the same company as their first, Watts said. For example, if you receive a Pfizer vaccine, you must get a Pfizer shot for your second dose.

Another listener wants to know if you can get your second dose in a different state than where you got your first shot.

There is no rule that says you have to go to the same vaccine provider for both doses, Watts said. However, she strongly recommends you do not get your second dose in a different state.

Vaccine distribution plans vary by state, and vaccine shortages are widespread across the country, she said.  There is no guarantee that there would be enough vaccines in a different state, which could prevent you from getting the second dose on time.

“The concern we have is that if people are moving around too much trying to find that second dose, they may really struggle to get access to it,” Watts said.

“You’re really better off trying to go back to the same provider where you got the first dose because by giving you the first dose, we’re doing it with the intent to give you the second dose,” she said.

Terry Allan, Health Commissioner at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, added that medical records will not easily transfer across state lines.

If you try to get a second shot at a provider in a different state, there would be lots of paperwork involved to prove that you already received your first shot, he said.

Watts urges people not to travel during the pandemic for any reason. If there are extenuating circumstances, such as moving or traveling for work, she recommends planning ahead as much as possible to schedule your shots at the same provider.

Another ideastream listener wants to know if there is any follow-up to make sure people get the second shot.

Vaccine providers, such as the board of health, collect individuals’ contact information when they get their first shot, and reach out to them when it is time to schedule the next dose, Allan said.

“We can email them, text them, and also they get a voice message that says they’re due for their second dose, and then they contact us. Then, they’re given a link to register,” he said.

Other vaccine providers, such as hospitals and pharmacies, also encourage people to use their electronic services such as apps to be notified when they are due for the second shot.

After getting vaccinated, people are given an identification card that tells them which kind of vaccine they received and the date it was administered. 

Another listener, Margie from Westlake, asked if people have to get the vaccine in the same county they live in.

While people are not required to sign up for the vaccine in their county, Allan advises against this. Vaccines were allocated to counties based on population, so smaller counties received fewer doses than larger counties like Cuyahoga County, he said.

If a Cuyahoga resident would travel to Geauga County to get vaccinated, for example, they would be taking doses away from people who live in an area that has a smaller supply, he said.

“You then would be drawing on somebody else’s allocation,” he said. “In order to think about equitable access, we’d encourage people to stay close to home.”

Allan has heard of people traveling outside of their county to get vaccinated, he said. While he understands people want to keep their options open, he recommends getting both doses in the same county.

Some counties, such as Franklin County where Columbus is located, are only vaccinating people who live in their jurisdiction, according to a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health.


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