CHICAGO, Ill. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed this week that an estimated 5 million people got their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, but missed or skipped their second. That means they may not be fully vaccinated against the virus.
Daniel Morroni and his wife, who is immunocompromised, both contracted COVID-19 back in November.
“We had body aches, back pain, night sweats, chills, fever. We had everything,” said the 58-year-old man.
So, when they became eligible for the vaccine – the couple made sure to get their first shot. But two weeks away from a second dose, Morroni and his wife are unsure about the second.
“She had a reaction to the first shot, me not as bad, but I was still on the fence whether I want to do it or not,” said Morroni.
According to data from the CDC, nearly 8% of people have missed their second dose. That’s up from 3.4%.
The CDC says the increase in missed second doses could be due to concerns about side effects as in the Morroni’s case, and the notion that a COVID-19 infection plus one dose is enough to generate neutralizing antibodies.
“The reality is that we're doing studies right now to better understand whether or not individuals who already had COVID need a second shot,” said Dr. Emily Landon, chief epidemiologist and executive medical director of infection prevention and control at University of Chicago Medicine.
Regardless, she says that second shot is an insurance policy.
“You may not necessarily need it, but until we have studies that show that you definitely don't, it's safer than not getting it,” said Landon.
In a statement, the CDC admits that, “A limitation of this analysis, is that if a person received the two doses from different reporting entities, those two doses may not have been linked together.”
Jacob Meister got his two shots in different places – the first at a Walgreens and the second from the county health department.
“For weeks, I was getting telephone calls from them and text messages saying you have to schedule your second dose,” said Meister.
Now, he wonders if he’s erroneously being counted as someone still needs a second shot.
“I may be a statistic twice of a person who got one dose but never got a second,” he said.
Landon says population-wide immunity could take a hit depending on how many people are actually skipping their second shot.
“We may have plenty of herd immunity from a lot of people getting one dose of the vaccine and a bunch of people having had COVID for us to have a really great summer,” she said. “But it may not be enough to get us through the wintertime and the tougher situations where COVID has the bigger advantage over us.”
It’s something Daniel Morroni is thinking about.
“I have 83-year-old parents that I want to be around. They got the shots, so I want to have the shots. This way, we're all protected. That's the only reason why I would do it again.”