What happens if you don’t get the second COVID-19 vaccine dose?

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Local healthcare workers are doing what they can to emphasize the necessity of the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and warning about three consequences if you don’t take it: no immunity, a mutated virus and a longer pandemic.

Both Moderna and Pfizer’s versions require a second dose: at 28 and 21 days, respectively.

The federal government does not a have a robust plan for tracking and reminding people about a second dose. Its 75 page playbook dedicates just one page to the topic, referencing a paper notecard.

Mary Kay Foster, infectious disease nurse at IU Health, says the State of Indiana has other plans. It will remind you electronically after you’ve gotten the first dose that you need to schedule and take the second.

“You go in, you pre-register, come on-site at your time, and when you get ready to leave you’ll get a link to schedule for your second dose,” said Foster. “It will continuously ping them to get their schedule done and remind them frequently.”

Foster also says IU Health is working on its own reminder program. She says if you don’t take the second dose, you are not immune.

“I can’t go in off the street and drag them in and make them take it but without the second dose it’s not going to be as effective. You’ll get a little bit of immunity but not the kind that we really really must have,” she said.

That mass-immunity threshold is passed after about 80% of people get the second dose, according to Foster. She also adds it’s not clear how long you can wait after the required 21 or 28 days between doses.

Foster also warns that this vaccine isn’t a “hail Mary touchdown pass.” She says battling COVID-19 is more of a running game and we need to keep our previous practices in place until we reach that threshold.

“The vaccine is important when it’s paired with continued masking, the social distancing, the hand hygiene. We have to continue to do all four of those things until we get to the widespread use of the vaccine,” she said.

The worst case scenario for a one-dose virus is mutation, where the virus teaches itself how to fight the vaccine. Foster says she’s less concerned about that since the vaccine can be adapted to fit a mutated virus.