As many as 60,000 Granite Staters are overdue for the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Of about 750,000 people who have received at least one dose of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, about 8% are overdue for a second dose, according to the department.
Vaccination has slowed considerably in recent months as most of the people who wanted to get vaccinated received shots. State data shows first doses fell to just 302 the week of July 4, and 10,000 the prior week, down from 40,000 doses per week and more in April and May.
Polls from the University of New Hampshire show about a quarter of adults in the state do not plan to get vaccinated. As restrictions have fallen away and case numbers have stayed low, getting vaccinated may seem less urgent, and some are reluctant to experience the side effects that come with a second dose.
Though it may seem less urgent, Health and Human Services spokesman Jake Leon said in an email the state is encouraging people to get their second shots if they have gotten only one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
“Two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are required for optimal vaccine effectiveness,” Leon said.
There is no one reason people are putting off the second dose, Catholic Medical Center spokeswoman Lauren Collins-Cline said.
They may have had a scheduling conflict, or simply forgotten the second appointment, she said. Some people may have had a reaction to the first dose and are nervous about the second dose, or have heard stories about the headaches and fatigue their friends and family felt after the second dose. Or they may think that one dose is sufficient protection against the virus.
It’s not uncommon to be overdue for the second shot of other vaccines, said Dr. Holly Mintz, chief medical officer of Solution Health, the parent company of Manchester’s Elliot Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua.
“Sometimes people get forgetful when it comes to scheduling vaccinations,” she said. Mintz said she hoped people were not putting off their second doses to avoid side effects.
“The potential effects of the disease can be far, far, far, far worse than any side effects that last less than 24 hours.”
Some people may also be having trouble accessing second-dose appointments, said Bobbie D. Bagley, Nashua’s director of public health and community services, particularly homebound people who have trouble traveling to pharmacies. But she said given the opportunity, people are willing to get their second doses.
A mobile clinic Wednesday in Nashua focused on giving second doses drew people from as far as Concord, Bagley said.
Getting two doses is especially important to guard against the delta variant, said Michael Calderwood, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center doctor and chief quality officer.
A single dose of Pfizer or Moderna prevented about 82% of symptomatic infections with the coronavirus variants in circulation over the winter, and a second dose made the vaccines about 94% effective, Calderwood said in a statement, citing studies by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But a single dose of either shot is much less effective at protecting people against the delta variant. Though the state has logged only 15 cases of the virus variant, it is the dominant strain in other parts of the United States.
“Data from Public Health England have reported protection of only 33% after a single dose of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine,” Calderwood said. But a second dose pushes the effectiveness to 88% against the delta variant, he said.
“The second dose is critical to protect against the delta variant,” Calderwood said.
People who got the Pfizer vaccine were supposed to wait three weeks before their second dose, or four weeks between the first and second doses of Moderna vaccines. But Leon said anyone who has let more time pass can still get their second dose, even if several weeks have passed.
Mintz said she expects health care providers will ask their patients about the vaccine during regular check-ups, and urge people to get their second doses at a pharmacy or at certain providers’ offices.