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Scheduling a COVID-19 Vaccine Leads to Questions. OH Really?

worker administers COVID-19 vaccine to patient
Kabir Bhatia
Summit County Public Health continues to offer a lottery system for getting the vaccine, while Cuyahoga County has a waiting list.

As more Ohioans get vaccinated against COVID-19, you’ve still got questions about the timetable for each dose.

The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require a second dose after the first, and there’s a four-day grace period for that second dose.

A listener from Summit County emailed us, saying her doses had been properly spaced until her pharmacy pushed the first dose forward by several days, shortening the window.

I asked ideastream Health Reporter Anna Huntsman about how that could affect someone’s immunity.

“The reason there is an interval in the first place is because your body needs enough time to mount an immune response to the first dose of whichever vaccine you're getting. Whether it's one of the vaccines we got as kids or the COVID-19 vaccine.

“From what I read through the CDC and other medical sources, is that you should only be scheduled for outside the interval if it's an extenuating circumstance. They listed reasons such as [if] you are about to go on vacation, or if you're going to be out-of-town and need to get it right at 24 days. I think in this person’s case, there were scheduling issues, but it sounds like they called the pharmacist, who said it was okay for them to come in.”

Huntsman adds that when it comes to building an immune response, some people are concerned if they haven't been able to stay with the standard window between shots.

“We know from the reports so far about these vaccines that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to start your body's antibody response. I'm not a doctor or pharmacist, but the person in the email said it was 24 days. So they are well over the two weeks needed to build that immune response. I don't think they should have any concerns that getting a second dose within that four-day grace period would suppress the immune response in their body from the first dose.”

Getting the 2-1-1
We also received a note this week from Marie Sulzmann, who is 76 and lives in Twinsburg. She’s a retired nurse and in good health, and was one of many people who wrote in to say they’re having trouble getting a vaccine appointment. But last week, she finally received her first dose from Discount Drug Mart.

“I think the whole key to the situation is to be patient; sign up where you can. I could have gone to Warrensville to get a shot, but I didn’t feel comfortable driving there. People in my age group are in such varying stages of activity and lifestyle [so] it’s really hard for them.”

The United Way’s 2-1-1 COVID vaccine helpline offers information and assistance. Hunstman says they've added staff to handle call volume that's doubled since the line opened in January.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.