Nearly 50,000 people in Florida who received their first coronavirus vaccine dose are overdue for their second one.
The two immunizations approved for emergency use authorization in the U.S. – Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – each require a booster shot three or four weeks apart.
According to Florida’s Department of Health, about 1.03 million people have been given at least one shot and more than 93,000 have returned for their second jab.
However, a total of 45,056 have missed their shot – a figure that has risen 10 percent over the last three days, health department data shows.
Some health experts say seniors are delaying going to their second appointment because they fear serious side effects such as fever, headache and chills.
There is currently no national database tracking people who are overdue for their second shot and Florida is the first state to announce this issue.
Of the 1.03 million people in Florida who have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine, 45,056 are overdue for their second dose. Pictured: A medical worker administers a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Kathy Veltman at a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds in Plant City, Florida, January 13
Florida’s Department of Health has refused to answer questions about whether officials are concerned and reasons for why people have missed their second jab
Dr Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that it is unclear what the significance is of people missing their shots without knowing why they are overdue.
He said it could be a number of factors including people not knowing when they are due to get their second shot or even a lag in reporting.
‘Without knowing the ‘why’ here, it is challenging to know whether it should be concerning,’ Salemi said.
‘Right now, I’m not concerned, but if that number continues to grow…or the reasons for missing the second dose are concerning (e.g., no doses available, people unable to make it to their appointments in a timely manner), then I’d be brainstorming effective solutions.’
However, some experts say they were expecting such a situation to occur.
‘I heard there are some seniors balking at getting the second shot because they’ve heard that the side effects are worse with the second shot,’ Seminole County EMS Medical Director Todd Husty told WESH 2.
Clinical trial data showed many volunteers who receive the second dose experienced worse side effects such as fever, headache, fatigue, chills and shortness of breath.
But officials say this is a sign that the vaccine is working and that the immune system is mounting a response.
Husty told WESH 2 that the best solution is to educate the general public that the virus itself is far worse than the side effects and that symptoms such as a headache or fever can be alleviated with Tylenol.
Jason Mahon, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, told the Sun Sentinel that 80 percent of people due for their second dose have received it.
Health experts say some seniors might be worried about the side effects of getting the second dose, which is known to be stronger than the first. Pictured: Residents of The Palace assisted living facility in Coral Gables, Florida, wait in line to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, January 12
In a statement on Thursday, Gov Ron DeSantis urged Floridians being vaccinated to not forego their second shot
However, he did not answer questions about why people are overdue or if state officials are concerned.
The state’s Department of Health did not immediately reply to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Dr Joshia Lenchus, chief medical officer of Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, told the Sun Sentinel the two doses are space out to give the body time to mount an immune response while reducing side effects.
Pfizer’s booster shot is given 21 days after the initial shot while the Moderna vaccine is given after 28 days.
Lenchus said there is a four-day window in which it is ideal to distribute the second shot, but he recommends still getting it outside of that window.
‘I would suggest still getting it,’ he told the Sun Sentinel.
‘I would not walk around with one shot feeling protected.’
In a statement released to Twitter on Thursday, Gov Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to get their second dose
‘While there is talk at the federal level regarding how to distribute vaccine doses and whether booster shots should be ‘held back,’ Florida is committed to the two-dose regimen for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,’ he wrote.
‘One dose seems to provide some protection, but the 95 percent efficiency has only been shown to be attained by taking the booster shot.
‘This means that while the manner of distribution may change, the necessity of the booster shot will not. Florida wants all seniors to receive booster shots at the appropriate time.’