SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As COVID-19 vaccines become available for all American adults, health experts worry about what they are calling “second shot hesitancy.”
Health experts told News Channel 11 that while one dose is better than nothing, they are pleading with the public to return for the second Pfizer and Moderna doses, since that would afford over 95% protection against hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.
In Virginia, Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccination coordinator, said roughly 9% of people who received their first Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine dose, do not return for the second, and it’s due to multiple reasons.
“People may have gotten their first dose and seen some symptoms and don’t want that to happen again. People are also hearing about the worse symptoms after the second dose,” Avula said.
Another possible reason, he pointed out, is for a number of people early on it wasn’t very easy to get your second shot in some cases.
Back in January and February, the state was asking vaccine providers to immediately go ahead and schedule those second dose appointments, but providers were unsure of supply, and thus did not know if they could accommodate those second appointments each time.
“I think the combination of not having really seamless systems for second dose appointments and then the experience that people had with their first dose and fears that they had about worsening symptoms with the second dose probably account for the majority of that 9 or so percent of folks who haven’t come back,” Avula said.
He said the state health system bears some responsibility for the rocky scheduling.
“We should’ve done everything possible to go ahead and schedule that second dose, even if that meant taking a small gamble of potentially having to cancel an appointment if we didn’t receive some of those doses,” Avula said.
“In retrospect, I think we should’ve been much more aggressive about scheduling that because I think the ease and convenience of that process makes a difference.”
In Sullivan County, Tennessee, Sullivan County Regional Health Department Emergency Response Coordinator Mark Moody said they do not have these scheduling issues.
“I think that applies more towards the other seven counties around us and I’m not trying to be ugly about them but if they want a second dose, they can come to Whitetop, Monday through Friday,” he said.
Whitetop Creek Park has been a mass vaccination site in Sullivan County for months, but is set to close in the coming weeks. Moody added that the supply so far exceeds the demand for vaccines, he does not anticipate any kind of scheduling issues, even if an influx of the population were to descend upon the health department demanding doses.
“I believe that you have seen the transition from the other county health departments in the region going from an appointment base scenario to a just no appointment required, which is intended to help facilitate people getting there, but I think some of that issue was with calling to try to schedule an appointment with one or the other county health departments, as far as I’m aware, we have not really had that type of pushback, or or issue with being able to accommodate individuals,” he said.