What are the risks of skipping your COVID-19 vaccine second dose? Experts are weighing in

Nearly five million American have done so, per the CDC

Covid 19, covid 19 vaccine
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Nearly five million Americans opted out of the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As that number continues to grow, healthcare experts remain on alert. 

Reasons for this decision vary: some people feel that the second shot is not worth the potential side effects, others believe one dosage is sufficient, and some experienced supplier issues that prevented them from receiving their second shot, the New York Times reports. 

Although the vaccination process is tedious in the U.S.—patients have to wait at least 21 days for a second Pfizer dose and at least 28 days for a second Moderna dose—medical professionals are in agreement that it must be completed. 

What happens if I don't receive the second dose of my COVID-19 vaccine?

Both Pfizer and Moderna are less effective with one single shot; the British Medical Journal reports that one Pfizer shot is only 52% effective and one Moderna shot is only 80% effective, per the World Health Organization. When a patient receives both doses of either vaccine, the CDC says the effectiveness rate is over 90%. 

If the COVID-19 vaccines are effective after one dosage, why do I need two?

While one dose of each COVID-19 vaccine is still effective, a second is crucial because it increases the length of protection, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. “You’re in a tenuous zone if you don’t have the full impact," he said during a White House press briefing, according to The Washington Post. 

As new variants of the virus arise, it's important to have the most protection possible, especially for people with high-risk health conditions.

What are the risks involved with not following through with the COVID-19 vaccination process?

According to Dr. Carlos Malvestutto, an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, not completing the vaccination process will put us further away from the herd immunity that is needed to beat the virus.

Is there wiggle room if I missed out on my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Medical experts at Houston Methodist revealed that scientists are unaware of how effective either vaccine will be after six weeks, making it imperative to stick to the suggested timeframe.

However, if you do miss out on that 21 or 28-day timeframe, the CDC says you can receive a second dose of either vaccine up to six weeks after your first, per Houston Methodist. 

How do I prevent issues receiving my second COVID-19 dose?

Houston Methodist insists that you leave your first appointment with your second one scheduled. It also recommends that you know which vaccine you received.

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Although we are making progress with our handling of the virus—the CDC just eased face mask rules for those who are fully vaccinated—we are not in the clear just yet. A little over a quarter of the U.S. population has been vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins, so we must still remain vigilant. 

If you have any questions or concerns, do consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Danielle Valente

Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, where she particularly enjoys covering lifestyle and entertainment news. She was previously the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. When she's not working, you can find her reading a good book and enjoying a cup of coffee. Follow her @dvwrites.