COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Nearly 140 million Americans have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but new data from the CDC shows that a growing number are not getting their second dose.
The CDC reported that as of April 9th about 8% of Americans have missed their second dose of the vaccine, which comes out to about 5 million people. The CDC said that number was only 3.4% back in March.
Prisma Health Infectious Disease Doctor Dr. Edwin Hayes said he’s concerned by the growing trend here in South Carolina and across the nation.
“This is a concerning trend,” Hayes said. “What we are seeing across the nation is happening in South Carolina just as much, folks not coming in to finish the vaccination, essentially having an incomplete vaccination.”
DHEC officials said as of April 13, there were approximately 150,000 South Carolinians who were at least one day past the 21-day mark to receive their second Pfizer shot and one day past the 28-day mark to receive their second Moderna shot.
“We continue to encourage individuals to receive a complete vaccination series to maximize the full efficacy of the vaccines, and to get their second shot as close to the recommended 21 or 28 days as possible, or as soon as they’re able to,” a DHEC spokesperson said in a statement.
Hayes said he believes vaccine hesitancy is playing a role.
“There’s a lot of barriers that are put up and some of those barriers are very real, like transportation or not having an understanding of where to go to get vaccinated,” Hayes said. “Some of those barriers can be manifested psychologically or socially about is this something that could be dangerous?” Hayes said.
The Medical University of South Carolina’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Danielle Scheurer said she’s not overly concerned right now by the growing numbers.
“I am still hopeful that it’s not necessarily something that people are actively not doing, but more passively ‘I haven’t gotten around to it yet’,” Scheurer said.
However, Hayes warned about the risk of putting off the second dose, saying it undermines the ability for communities to reach herd immunity.
“Having less than adequate vaccination opens you up to having an infection and allowing the virus to learn a little bit better how it can perpetuate itself in our communities,” Hayes said. “So getting completely vaccinated is really the key to protecting all of us, the people we care about as well as ourselves, and getting back to some sense of a functional life that doesn’t require all of these adjustments we’ve had to make.”
Scheurer said grassroots efforts are going to be essential to reaching herd immunity.
“We need to get out into rural, small towns and find some trusted partners and have them be the spokespeople,” Scheurer said. “So just a more decentralized approach is our next phase of the vaccine effort for the state.”
A DHEC spokesperson said based on the CDC’s guidance, it’s ok if the second dose of vaccine needs to be delayed past the recommended timeframe, and there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine. However, it’s not known how effective the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are when delayed beyond six weeks from the first shot.
CDC data shows that South Carolina is also lagging behind when it comes to the total number of vaccines administered per 100 thousand residents compared to other states across the country, with the state falling in the bottom 10 states.