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‘Viruses live to mutate’: DHEC emphasizes importance of getting second dose of vaccine

Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 8:04 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - In the midst of a vaccine rollout, state health officials are now discouraging people from forgetting to get their second dose. The current vaccines on the market, Pfizer and Moderna, both entail two shots, taken with varying lengths of time in between.

To prevent a potential lapse, DHEC recommends people not leave their first dose appointment without knowing when they’re expected back for the second dose.

“A shot of vaccine helps your immune system to begin building protection that prevents disease. However, for this disease, this virus - a second shot is needed to complete the protection to save lives and prevent illness,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s interim director of public health.

Traxler said it’s still unclear how effective one shot is at this time. But if the coronavirus comes into contact with enough people who are not fully vaccinated, she says it can begin to mutate. If this happens enough times, current vaccines could become ineffective.

Traxler said there’s been limited research done on how long someone can go before getting their second shot.

“I do encourage folks to get their second dose as close to that appropriate time, either 21 days for Pfizer, or 28 days for Moderna, as possible - but certainly, getting it at some point is better than getting it at no point,” said Traxler.

For South Carolinians who did not make a second appointment and are now having trouble scheduling to fit the timeline, Traxler encouraged people to keep reaching back out to that same provider that they went to for their first dose and explain that there are no appointments after you need one.

“I have noticed that a lot of the providers are being very good about working with those folks to get them in close to the time point that they need,” she said.

It’s been understood that a grace period of four days before or after that scheduled time exists. On Thursday, however, the CDC published interim clinical considerations that would further increase this timespan.

“The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if it is not feasible, COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose,” the CDC’s website read Friday.

The CDC said that there is still limited data on the efficacy of vaccines beyond this window.

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