JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Susan Baldwin was one of the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Jacksonville’s state-run vaccination site at Regency Square Mall. She along with hundreds of other seniors stood in line for more than two hours that day.
Baldwin, 67, was instructed that she would receive a call from the state to set up her second vaccine appointment. But Baldwin says it’s been 20 days and she hasn’t received a call.
“I tried about 10 days ago to see if I could get an appointment. I could get the people who were calling about first appointments, first doses, and they would try everything they could, to try to get me an appointment for the second and they couldn’t,” said Baldwin.
Karen Hemmer, 83, also got her first shot on the first day the vaccination clinic opened. Hemmer says she hasn’t received a call to set up her second dose either.
“I just don’t want to go beyond the recommended time limit and possibly have to start over,” said Hemmer.
Originally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people get their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine. Since then, the CDC has updated its own recommendation, expanding the period between doses from 21-28 days to up to six weeks.
Chad Neilsen, an epidemiologist at UF Health in Jacksonville, said those who have been unable to get the vaccine at the 21-day mark shouldn’t fear their vaccine being less effective.
“It can be as long as 42 days out and still be effective at that recommended efficacy that the FDA approved,” said Neilsen. “The 42 days is really based on the fact in the trials people were being tracked. If they missed their 21-day, or for the Moderna on the 28-day appointment, they were tracked up to 42 days later to receive it.”
“If you miss 42 days, that’s probably okay too. You still have some level of protection in you after your first dose. But we still think you need to get that second dose to reach that max maximum efficacy that the FDA found in their study of both trials. So, if you can’t make 42 days, it doesn’t mean you should just not get the second one, just get it when you can.”
The state vaccination clinic at Regency Square Mall says its call center is currently calling people to schedule their second doses, but that under new federal recommendations some who received their first dose could be scheduled as much as six weeks out from the date of their original shot.
Officials did not answer whether they were unable to administer second doses at the same rate as first doses. Officials also did not give an answer when asked how many appointments for second doses have been scheduled so far at Regency Square Mall.
The Regency Square Mall site so far has averaged more than 1,000 vaccines a day since opening in mid-January. In total, the Jacksonville site has administered 19,180 first doses.
“We are prepared to provide a second dose for every person who received a first dose at Regency. We do not expect any changes in the upcoming days besides administering more vaccinations,” said the Florida Association of Public Information Officers.
In a press conference in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Gov. Ron Desantis said his office was checking into why some who were vaccinated on day one of the clinic have not been scheduled for a second dose.
“I will follow up with it, but bottom line we have said when the second doses come in, fill your appointments. Don’t divert your second doses to first doses just because we don’t know before whether we are going to get … what the second dosage is going to be like,” said Gov. Desantis.
“We are doing a lot of second doses statewide. The numbers are going through the roof and you don’t need it right at day 21 or 28. You can do a couple of days on either side, but we want to get people signed up for it. So, we will look at the Regency site and see what the sign-ups look like and if there are folks that need it we want to follow up with them for sure,” said Desantis.