The logistics of reaching everyone in the state who wants a COVID-19 vaccination is a daunting task for many reasons.
Counties, health departments and the state Department of Health (DOH) are keeping an eye on the number of people not returning for a second dose and are hopeful more vaccine supply will make it easier to fully vaccinate Washingtonians.
FAQ Friday answers your questions about the importance of getting both doses of the Pfizer-BionNTech and Moderna vaccines and when more of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be coming to Washington.
Why is it important to get both doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?
To get the full benefit of the vaccines, which both come in around 95% efficacy, both doses are needed — although a study out of Denmark shows people who have had a COVID-19 infection could be protected from SARS-CoV-2 for up to six months and might only need one dose of the two-dose vaccines.
Most people who make the effort to get the first shot come back to the same location for the second shot, but there is a slight drop-off of people coming back.
At both of King County’s mass vaccination sites in Auburn and Kent, about 12% of scheduled appointments didn’t show up, with that number dropping to 5% for people with second-dose appointments.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that people who don’t show up didn’t get vaccinated.
“It is likely that among those who did not show up for their first vaccine, some proportion may have had another appointment elsewhere,” said Sharon Bogan, Public Health – Seattle & King County spokesperson.
The county is making progress vaccinating people 65 and older, the age group most likely to have a severe infection. Public Health – Seattle & King County’s health officer tweeted Tuesday that 77% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 and 83% of those older than 75 have received at least one dose of the vaccines.
Last week, there were a number of open appointments for second shots, with about 15% of people who have not returned for the second dose at Snohomish County’s five mass vaccination sites after being sent reminders, Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, said during a Tuesday press briefing.
“I suspect that it’s one of two things: Either the folks who got their first dose got the second dose in another county so they didn’t get accounted for here. That’s fine, as long as they get the second dose,” he said. “And some people probably like any, you know, any iterative, multi-step process in life, including those in health and medicine, not everyone takes it all the way.”
As of Feb. 21, about 87.5% of vaccinated people received their second shot on time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 21 days between the first and second shot of the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for Moderna. Another 9.4% got their second dose shortly after the recommended amount of time between doses and 3.2% have missed a second dose, said DOH spokesperson Shelby Anderson.
When will Washington receive more Johnson & Johnson vaccine and where is it being used?
The state received an initial shipment of 60,900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the first week of March. Because of a lack of supply, Washington didn’t expect to get more of the single-shot vaccine until the end of March. DOH found out this week that 8,400 doses were available. This allotment will go to counties where allocations have been lower in recent weeks, as was done with the first shipment of Johnson & Johnson.
There are no more planned allocations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the state’s three-week forecast, which runs through April 4, Anderson said.
Can people choose which vaccine they get?
Public health officials suggest people get the vaccine offered to them wherever they make an appointment.
All three vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious infections, the state’s secretary of health, Dr. Umair Shah, has said a number of times.
“If you are a community member and you’re eligible and offered any of these three vaccines, our message is ‘Do not hesitate, vaccinate,'” Shah said during a news briefing earlier this month.