Trust Index: Does one dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine protect you?

Pharmacy director Heather Maturin unpacks vials of the first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in a refrigerator at Ochsner Hospital on O'Neal Lane, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)
Pharmacy director Heather Maturin unpacks vials of the first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in a refrigerator at Ochsner Hospital on O'Neal Lane, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4Jax Trust Index team is fact checking a statement made by Gov. Ron DeSantis, where he suggested that one dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is enough to protect the person receiving it.

Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna both say recipients won’t get full protection, however, from COVID-19 until a week after their second dose.

The governor was quoted in an opinion piece in Wall Street Journal, in which the author poses the question: Should candidates get two doses of the vaccine to gain maximum effectiveness, or just one dose with a lower success rate or efficacy in order to protect more people?

Chad Neilsen, UF Health’s director of infection prevention, says that this method hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, calling the content of what DeSantis said “poor information.”

“It’s unfortunate when we get mixed messages from the government, and it’s our job to help correct that, steer the public in the right way,” Neilsen said.

DeSantis on Friday said, ″One dose of this Pfizer (vaccine), they are finding is protective, there was actually an article in the Wall Street Journal where someone argued you shouldn’t even do the boosters right now, just get as many doses out there. I’m not sure that Pfizer would agree or FDA would agree, but I think the point is, getting that first dose out, really does make a difference.”

In the opinion article DeSantis refers to entitled “A Shot (Instead of Two) at Saving Lives,” neuroscientist Michael Segal writes the following:

“The question is whether to use the 100 million doses on 50 million people, of whom two doses would protect roughly 47.5 million, or to give one dose each to 100 million people and protect at least 75 million.”

The protocol, however, approved by the FDA for Pfizer -- and being considered for Moderna -- requires two doses to reach a 94% to 95% effectiveness rate attainable within a few weeks after the second dose. While the first dose might provide some protection against COVID-19, Neilsen says the public should trust scientists and not politicians.

″I definitely urge people to listen to the medical experts here. We are the ones who are caring for you and we are the ones that are going to be giving those vaccinations and continuing with the public health mission here. We certainly don’t want poor information coming out from higher levels of the government,” he said.

Nielsen continued, ″We’ve been dealing with this for years, particularly now with the social media advent and the increasing amount of fake news or misinformation or just science illiteracy that’s happening in our country. It’s extremely challenging for us and undermines our field and undermines professionals who’ve been working on this for their entire careers it makes our job harder protecting the public.”

On Tuesday, the governor had this to say about the vaccine and the second dose required under current protocols:

“Now (with) both Moderna and Pfizer, people think that first shot offers some protection, but obviously you’re going to need to get that to have staying power.”

In a companion statement released by the governor’s office, a spokesperson said DeSantis never suggested only taking one dose if more are available but rather pointed out the benefit of getting the first dose. Below is the complete unedited statement:

Governor DeSantis at no time indicated he believed or endorsed administering only one dose if more are available

The Governor was simply stating the benefit of administering the first dose to Floridians. And that benefit is scientifically quantifiable.

The Governor indicated there was an opinion piece in the WSJ about this issue. This is a sample of other headlines on this issue:

NBC News “FDA: Pfizer’s Covid 19 vaccine safe and effective after one dose.” https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/fda-pfizer-s-covid-19-vaccine-safe-effective-after-one-n1250337

Boston Globe “One dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine offers some protection.”


New York Times – “Pfizer’s vaccine offers strong protection after the first dose.”


The Governor believes 2 doses are the best, 1 dose will confer some protection and no doses will leave the vulnerable…vulnerable

Note: Pfizer says that one dose is effective 52% of the time – Dr. William Gruber, SVP of clinical R&D So the only assertion the Governor made was that the first dose “really does make a difference.” And that statement in facially and empirically true.

The News4Jax Trust Index Team gives this a rating of “Be Careful.” As the governor underscored Tuesday, two doses are needed for complete protection. And while some suggest giving only one dose, that doesn’t give the full, intended protection.

Be Careful

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