Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require 2 doses, spaced 3 and 4 weeks respectively, to provide full immunity against COVID-19.
While the first dose offers some protection, healthcare experts warn the clinical trials of these authorized vaccines show 95% efficacy against severe illness from the virus occurs only after the complete 2-dose course.
According to Forbes, 1 dose provides only two-thirds of protection against severe infection from the virus. Statistics show, over 8% of people are not returning for that second, vital dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, according to a report in The New York Times. This means 5 million Americans do not have full immunity against COVID-19 and are also more vulnerable to becoming sick from the highly contagious B.1351 variant, also known as the South African variant, that is making its way across America.
According to Good Housekeeping, Dr. Nicholas Kman, an emergency physician at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, said getting both shots ensures as much immunity as possible against COVID-19.
Research has shown getting only 1 shot of the Pfizer drug provides 52% defense against the spread of the virus and the first shot of the Moderna vaccine imparts 80% protection. But there are no clinical studies to show how long partial protection lasts. Kman says, while both vaccines do provide about 80% protection against a person becoming infected by the virus after the first dose, the second dose increases the number of antibodies in bloodstream tenfold, offering 95% efficacy.
When people get their first dose of the mRNA vaccines, they also receive a card with instructions on when to return for the second shot. According to Forbes, life can get in the way of sticking to that schedule, but it is still important to finish the course.
If you do miss that second shot, Dr. Adam Ratner, a pediatric infectious disease expert at NYU Langone Health and a vaccine researcher, tells Time magazine, you should schedule one as soon as you can. While the 3- to 4-week gap is recommended, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is O.K. to get your booster shot within 42 days of the first.
Beyond that time frame, you are in tenuous territory, according to Forbes. There is not much data on how effective the booster dose, or second shot of the mRNA vaccines, will be if they are administered over 7 weeks from the primary dose. Will the immune system remember the genetic code to attack and destroy the spike protein of the coronavirus? Experts say they do not know.
Since there is no evidence on how effective the vaccines are outside the protocol established by clinical trials, it is best to be diligent and complete the 2-dose regimen in a timely manner. Luckily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among all 2-dose recipients, 95.6% received the second dose within the recommended interval.
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