Skipping the second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine may prolong the pandemic, study finds

Photo (c) David Talukdar - Getty Images

Experts hope to eliminate some of the confusion circulating about the necessity of getting the second dose

With platforms like Facebook, Google, and Amazon’s Alexa providing consumers with COVID-19 vaccine information, there’s no shortage of ways to stay updated about the latest news regarding vaccination efforts. 

Now, researchers from Cornell University are exploring the risks associated with consumers not following up with their second dose of the vaccine. They explained that skipping out on the second COVID-19 shot may make the pandemic last longer. 

“It really sunk in that there could be a problem with vaccine attrition even more so than overcoming hesitancy,” said researcher Jillian Goldfarb. “We could end up prolonging the pandemic because people don’t follow through.”  

The importance of following through

The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 adults across the country in February to determine their attitudes about the efficacy of the vaccine and how they ranked the importance of getting the second dose. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that their findings lined up with recent data from the CDC. They found that roughly 8% of consumers who have received their first COVID-19 vaccine are past due for the second shot. 

“Many Americans, including many of those who have already received a first vaccine dose, remain confused about the timing of protection and the necessity of a second dose,” the researchers wrote. “Moreover, a large proportion of vaccinees report being uninformed about CDC guidelines regarding the need to continue to take prophylactic measures.” 

The team attributes this to inconsistent messaging at vaccination sites nationwide. Very few participants reported that they were given recommendations about continuing social distancing and face mask protocols; less than 20% of respondents said they were given instructions about how long it takes the vaccine to fully kick in. 

“This is an opportunity to take this fragmented system we have and think about how we can ensure people get the information they need to protect themselves and public health, until viral circulation is much lower than it still is,” said researcher Douglas Kriner. “

What does this mean for the future?

The researchers’ goal with this study is to highlight why it’s so important for consumers to follow through with both rounds of the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting fully vaccinated increases a person’s protection against the virus; however, this study found that less than 20% of vaccinated participants were given formal instructions or guidance about vaccine protection or the importance of the second vaccine. 

Moving forward, the researchers worry about the long-term impacts of consumers continuing on this trend of skipping their second shots. They explained that consumers getting fully vaccinated is one of the best ways for the pandemic to reach its conclusion. 

“You can’t understand how this virus will continue to progress unless you understand the behavior of the public that is receiving the vaccine,” Kriner said. 

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