With fewer doses than expected available and distribution challenges complicating state and local planning, public-health officials debated the wisdom of sticking to the recommended two-dose regimen for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines well into February. With very limited supply, would it be better for as many people as possible to receive at least one dose? Would vaccine sites have the supplies necessary to administer the second doses on time?

Would people return to receive second doses reserved for them?

A recent report from the CDC indicates that the decision to stick to the recommended vaccine administration schedule worked out better than many expected. Nearly nine out of every 10 Americans who received the first dose of the vaccines got their second shot on time—within 24 to 32 days for Moderna and 17 to 25 days for Pfizer-BioNTech.

The analysis looked at data from 40.5 million Americans who initiated the vaccine series between December 14, 2020, and February 14, 2021, and had data reported to the CDC by February 20, 2021. Of the 12.4 million who received the first dose early enough to be able to get the second dose within the study timeframe, 88% completed the series. Another 8.6% still had time left before they exceeded the 42-day allowable interval between doses. Overall, just 3.4% of those who received one dose failed to obtain the second within the allowable interval, and fully 95.6% received the second dose within the recommended period. A few (1.5%) received the second dose before the recommended time, while only 0.1% received their second dose after the allowable interval.

The findings provide a positive counterpoint to survey results released in late January that suggested that individuals often forget to return for subsequent doses of multidose vaccines. While more than 40% of respondents to the DrFirst survey said they had received a vaccine that required more than one dose, 13% of those individuals had not completed the series or did not know whether they had.

The heightened awareness of the impact of COVID-19 and daily coverage of vaccine availability and administration at the local and national levels could be keeping the need to return for the second shot top-of-mind for people who have started the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine series. That would significantly boost completion rates: Sixty percent of the adults surveyed by DrFirst who missed a second dose for another vaccine type, such as shingles or HPV, said that they forgot, did not receive a reminder, did not realize a second dose was required, or simply missed the appointment.

For pharmacists concerned about ensuring that patients return for the second shot, the survey offers some guidance. Forty percent of patients said that text reminders would increase the likelihood they would get a needed single or multidose vaccine. About one-third of patients indicate they would appreciate a phone call reminder to return for a second dose, and a quarter would like a text reminder. Fewer than 8% of respondents wanted to use a patient portal for notifications or reminders.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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