What Happens if I Don’t Get the Second Dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Vaccination started in many countries across the world in late 2020. Here in Ghana, the exercise began on March 1, 2021, with President Nana Akufo Addo and other government officials taking turns to take the jab.

Whilst more than 187 million people have received the first dose of the vaccines in the United States of America, just about 72.6 million of that number have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

In Ghana, over 740,000 people have been vaccinated. The country received an initial supply of vaccines totaling 600,000 doses from the COVAX facility and additional supplies of 165,000 from MTN Group and 50,000 from the government of India.

But these are just the first doses of jabs.

There have been concerns about how long one has to wait to take the second dose particularly as it has been more than a month since Ghanaians received the first jab.

The World Health Organisation has said that less than 2 percent of the jabs administered globally are in Africa, indicating a shortage in supply.

So what happens if one does not get the second dose of the vaccine on time?

Experts say that is not much of a worry. Generally, it is advised that the second dose is taken between 21 and 28 days after the first jab.

For countries like Ghana which are administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, the head of the Berlin Charite Hospital’s research group on infectious diseases immunology and vaccines, Leif Erik Sander, said the second dose should follow six weeks after the first.

“Data from AstraZeneca/Oxford show that a delayed booster actually enhances the antibody response,” Sander was quoted in Germany’s daily Die Welt report, adding that “this decision is informed from other studies, such as Ebola vaccines.”

David Topham, a microbiologist and immunologist at the University of Rochester in New York was reported as saying the delay should not be much of a concern. “It’s really not a problem, “he says.

“When people say they’re worried about getting their second dose on time, I say they shouldn’t worry, as long as they get the second dose eventually,” he said. “It’s not going to be a detriment to their ultimate immune response. If anything, it might actually be better.” Said Tophman to those who may be worried about the delay in taking their second doses.

Some experts even argue that there is no need for a second dose as many more people need the first dose of the vaccines to stay safe.

This has been fueled by data from Israel’s largest Hospital who examined about 7000 staff after their first doses and concluded that the rates of symptomatic infections were down by 85%.

Do I really need the second dose of the vaccine?

It does remain vital to get the second dose of the vaccine within six weeks, experts say. Although the first dose generates some protection, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Sputnik vaccines have been shown to stop more than nine out of 10 Covid-19 cases (Sputnik is only being used in Russia, Argentina, and Belarus) according to the Yale University. After two shots, the AstraZenica and Sinopharm vaccines stop more than seven out of 10 Covid-19.

Experts say an additional dose to the first boosts the immune response by activating immune cells created after the first dose to produce stronger, longer-lasting protection.

“The role of the second dose is, without question, an advantage,” Onyema Ogbuagu, a leading Virologist in the US, said.

“It optimizes the efficacy and durability,” adds Ogbuagu, who oversees COVID-19 clinical trials at Yale School of Medicine, and was involved in testing the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy.

“But the pattern after the second dose is just so striking, antibody levels just skyrocket,” he says.

“The second shot does add significantly to their immunity, and what we have to do is, we have to get more quickly through our first doses that we have in the field, but no one is advising people to skip their second shot at this point,” Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser on the Covid-19 response, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in an interview.

In a study published in the UK Medical Journal- THE LANCET after observing over 25,000 participants have come to the conclusion that:

“The results of this primary analysis of two doses of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 were consistent with those seen in the interim analysis of the trials and confirm that the vaccine is efficacious, with results varying by dose interval in exploratory analyses”.

The United States’ Food and Drugs Administration has said data at their disposal supports the use of two doses of each authorised vaccine at specific intervals.

When Fact-Check Ghana requested for an interview with the Ghana Health Service, the body said it was planning to issue a comprehensive notice regarding the second dose and the delay it might come with.

This report is produced under the project: COVID-19 Response in Africa: Together for Reliable Information being implemented with funding support from the European Union.

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