With the recent bolstered efforts of government units and private institutions for administering COVID-19 vaccines, it seems that we’re actually getting somewhere and approaching herd immunity, albeit more slowly compared to other countries. But according to the data shared by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), over a million Filipinos have missed their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. There have been 3.1 million doses of Sinovac and Gamaleya administered since March 1, but half of the people who received these doses have still not received their second shot. If you’re one of these people, or even if you’re simply one of the millions of Filipinos waiting for their vaccine shots, you should understand why you shouldn’t miss your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: Isn’t one enough?
While there are vaccines like Johnson & Johnson that only require a single dose to be administered, most of the vaccines developed against COVID-19 need to be given in two stages to maximize effectivity.
And in the Philippines, it is mostly those two-shot vaccines that are available to us, like Sinovac, Gamaleya, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer.
Q: So what exactly are the two shots for?
If you’re getting a two-shot vaccine, you need BOTH doses to boost your immunity against COVID-19 better. An initial study cited by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that Pfizer was only 60-70% effective against COVID-19 if administered with only one dose. Later studies have found that there is an 80% effectiveness with a single-dose Pfizer vaccine, but it would immediately go up to 90% if two doses are administered. The same goes for the other brands of vaccines: effectivity rates improve significantly when two doses are given instead of one.
Q: But I already got my first dose. Does it not work on its own?
As the studies cited above have shown, a single jab does give you some level of protection against COVID-19 — but not as well as the recommended two doses would do.
“One dose is not enough. You need two doses so try to get your second dose as soon as possible to enjoy the full benefits of the vaccination,” said Dr. John Wong, an epidemiology and data analytics expert working with the IATF.
Think of it this way: after your first dose, you might think you’re protected enough since you got a vaccine already. This might lead you to be more lax about things like going out and exposing yourself. But because you’ve only received one dose, you still have quite a high risk of getting COVID-19 and are essentially rendering your first dose nearly useless.
Q: So am I not fully vaccinated yet after one dose?
No, you’re not. These vaccine brands available in the Philippines must be administered twice for the recipients like yourself to maximize the vaccine’s benefits.
“First dose is really not enough. Sinasabi na po ito ng ating mga eksperto (Our experts have been saying) that you need to get your second dose because it provides you with the maximum potential of the vaccine,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a town hall forum hosted by the Department of Health.
You aren’t even considered “fully vaccinated” immediately after your second dose. The US CDC only recognizes people as fully vaccinated if it has been 2 weeks since their second shot in a two-dose series or 2 weeks after a single-shot vaccine. Anything other than these is NOT considered as fully vaccinated. So even if you’ve received your first shot, you’re still vulnerable to COVID-19.
Q: But can I get another brand for my second dose?
No. At the moment, the Department of Health (DOH) is still studying the possibility of mixing vaccines. For now, the DOH mandates that the same brand must be administered for the first and second doses “to ensure the maximum protection of the vaccinee.”
After getting your first dose, you shouldn’t worry about the availability of your second dose. According to DOH, they are working with local government units to ensure that vaccine supplies are properly allocated so that each recipient would have access to both first and second doses of the same brand.
Q: Can I get sick between doses?
YES. You can definitely still catch the virus in between doses. As mentioned above, a single dose has a lower effectivity rate against COVID-19. Moreover, even if you already have some level of protection from your first dose, it may not be enough to protect you from the other variants or strains, like the one that was first found in South Africa.
Even as we are discovering ways to protect ourselves, the virus continues to mutate and evolve, so we all need to make the most out of the vaccines available to us and maximize their use — which means getting that second dose.
Q: What if I get worse symptoms after my second dose?
No one wants to get sick, we know. A vaccine could give you side effects like flu-like symptoms, which may make you fear getting vaccinated. But the thing is, the side effects are nothing compared to the impact of COVID-19.
After getting your first and second doses, you could be feeling under the weather for a couple of days, feel more tired than usual, and even get a low-grade fever. But these symptoms should only last for a short time. Remember: a low-grade fever from a vaccine that can protect you in the long run is better and more manageable to deal with than getting infected with COVID-19 and ending up in the ICU.
Q: What if I actually miss the second dose?
According to healthcare experts, the recommended timing between your first and second doses is about 3 to 4 weeks. But you can still get your second dose up to 6 weeks or 42 days after your first dose.
There could be a lot of factors that you missed your second dose: scheduling conflicts, emergencies, and so forth. Once you realize that you actually missed your second dose, you should simply reach out to your local government unit or wherever you’re getting your vaccine, and coordinate with them regarding getting your second appointment.
The bottom line is if you don’t get fully vaccinated — meaning, getting those two doses of vaccines and see yourself through two weeks after — you’re endangering not only yourself but the people around you as well. We won’t be able to reach herd immunity if we don’t all get fully vaccinated.
Have you scheduled your vaccination yet? Tell us about your experience in the comments!