The second wave of COVID-19 has been filled with uncertainty and unpredictability of the virus itself. However, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to avoid preventable downfalls. The two-dose mRNA vaccines have been confirmed to be highly effective at preventing infection, illness, and hospitalization—even from the now prevalent Delta variant according to vaccine health officials pointing to emerging research.
Despite the apparent importance of being fully vaccinated, there has been in a lag in persons in the United States who are receiving the vaccine to receive their second and get the full protection both shots offer. 15 million people in the United States have missed their second shot according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a recent town hall hosted by the Black Coalition Against COVID, guest speaker Dr. Simira L. Brown said: “The level of protection you’re able to get to is significantly different with one shot versus two, and that’s exactly the reason why you need two shots if you’re getting the Pfizer which is the vaccine that’s approved down to 12 [years old]. So if you’re going to get into that over 90% protection which is incredibly good, and protects against every single variant that we have seen here in the U.S., you have to get both to be able to get to that level.”
Public health and vaccine experts have long emphasized the importance of following the course of full vaccination. But a newly published study by Stanford Medicine quantifies how important a second dose of an mRNA vaccine is when it comes to fighting off COVID-19.
Experts also say that by getting a second dose of the mRNA vaccine, your immune cells will remember their previous encounter with that very same vaccine.
The second shot is recommended three weeks after the first Pfizer-BioNTech shot or four weeks after the first Moderna shot. Second doses were considered missed if more than 42 days had passed since the initial shot.
“Getting you to come in and get tested is one step, getting you to get vaccinated is another. Getting you to get your second dose has become its own barrier,” said Nic Lee with the Rafiki Coalition for Health & Wellness.
More than 15 million people in the U.S. still haven’t gotten a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A misconception persists that one dose provides ample protection from the virus. Additionally, there’s a fear that a second dose will lead to side effects – which are reportedly more severe than after the first dose for some people. Challenges of getting an appointment and finding the time to get a second dose are among the other reasons people have given for not getting fully vaccinated to fight COVID-19.
Dr. Nerissa Price of WakeMed Health in Raleigh, N.C. stresses that getting two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will equip more Black Americans with good protection from the virus. “It’s really not until after that second shot that you get full protection,” Dr. Price said. And full protection we need to clarify as well does not mean 100% protection. It still means that people need to be careful in certain settings where there’s a high number of unvaccinated individuals. I have the simple math. The first shot gets you half the way. The second shot gets you all the way. Even still, we need to be mindful of the new variants and the new information that gets released every day.”
Regardless of whether you’re busy or want to avoid feeling under the weather, experts say getting fully vaccinated is vital, especially with the highly transmissible Delta variant continuing to spread throughout the country. Banding together with your doctor and doing your part by becoming fully vaccinated can protect our lives, the lives of our loved ones and the lives of those in our Black communities.
For more information about vaccination sites in your area, go to <www.vaccines.gov>.