Does the vaccination process start over if I delayed the 2nd COVID-19 shot?


FILE – In this Jan. 15, 2021, file photo, Dr. Yomaris Pena, Internal Medicine Physician with Somos Community Care at a COVID-19 extracts the last bit of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine out of a vial so as not to waste it at a vaccination site at the Corsi Houses in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – For those who received a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, two doses are required to be considered “fully vaccinated.” But what if you missed that second dose? Do you have to start all over?

There’s a 28-day waiting period between the first dose of the Moderna vaccine and when you should get your second. For the Pfizer vaccine, there’s a 21-day waiting period.

Whether you should soldier on or start over depends on how long it’s been since your first dose.

“If you have forgotten to take your (second) dose, and it has reached that six-month period, it is better at that time – because we have so many people qualifying for that third dose – to go ahead and start over that vaccination process,” said Dr. Sherri Young, the health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department in West Virginia.

Young suggests if it’s been six months or longer since your first dose, you should treat your second dose as a first dose, then wait the three or four weeks necessary (depending on your vaccine’s manufacturer) and get a third dose. “That way you know you’re fully protected and fully immunized,” she said.

She said waiting too long to receive the second dose could change the effectiveness of the vaccine.  

“What we do know is that even if you’ve had your two doses, after about six to eight months, you start losing that immunity. So, if you’ve only had one shot, then you are going to start losing that immunity as well,” Young said.

How much of a delay is OK before starting over is recommended?  

“If you get to about the six-week period and you remember, go ahead and get that vaccine. But if you wait that full six months, it’s time to start that vaccination process over again, just out of an abundance of safety,” said Young.

That’s the official recommendation from Pfizer, Young said. A similar official recommendation is expected to come from Moderna, she said.

“First, talk to your health care provider, but it may be time to restart those shots. Just so you get the maximum benefit,” she said.

She said when you’re going in for your second shot, be sure to bring your vaccination card. This will allow health care officials to easily see when you received your first dose, and they can help you determine the next steps.  

If you lost your card, the health department says that information has also been stored in various locations, so health officials are able to find it for you.