TAMPA, Fla. — With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout here in the U.S. going slower than expected, some doctors have suggested prioritizing the first dose and delaying the second dose until more supplies can be shipped. Health experts in the United Kingdom started doing that last week.
Is that a possibility here to speed up vaccinations?
An opinion piece in the Washington Post over the weekend by a doctor and public health expert basically said yes, we should prioritize that first dose and get more people vaccinated. Then the second dose possibly delayed a few weeks.
USF Health Virologist Dr. Michael Teng disagrees. He says the vaccine should be taken as recommended and that both doses are important because of the way your immune system works. He explained it like learning how to ride a bike.
"The first dose is like riding your bike with training wheels, it works and you can get places. But the second dose is like taking off the training wheels. Now, you can actually go faster and do lots of different things. So, you really want to get that second dose because you don't want to have training wheels on while you combat this infection."
Here's the recommendation from the CDC website about both vaccines:
- Pfizer-BioNTech: three weeks (21 days) apart
- Moderna: one month (28 days) apart
Second doses administered within a grace period of about four days from the recommended date for the second dose are considered valid; however, doses administered earlier do not need to be repeated. The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, there is no maximum interval between the first and second dose for either vaccine.
US Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, says we still need to follow the science.
"Tony Fauci has said clearly that he does not think it's appropriate for us to eliminate the second dose or push it back at this point," Adams said.
A big concern for public health experts is if the second dose is delayed, some people may skip it altogether.
Also, this week the FDA is looking at the possibility of giving half doses of the Moderna vaccine, still requiring the second dose. This would only apply to people ages 18-55. According to the head of Operation Warp Speed, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, there is some research that shows it would be just as effective.