WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — How long is too long to wait for your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Palm Beach County health director Dr. Alina Alonso attempted to calm concerns among the public on Tuesday, assuring them that you can get your booster shot up to six weeks after your first dose and still have full protection.
Under current medical guidelines, the first and second doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are supposed to be administered 21 days apart, while the Moderna vaccine is 28 days apart.
However, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County has been scheduling some follow-up shots of the Pfizer vaccine more than 21 days out, which has led to concerns among the public.
"If they've had the Pfizer and they're getting a callback after the 21 days, does that serve to minimize the effectiveness of the vaccine?" Commissioner Maria Sachs asked Alonso at Tuesday's county commission meeting.
"There's no less effectiveness on the vaccine," Alonso answered. "It's not something that if you miss that day, your vaccine is not gonna work. It's complete efficacy up to six weeks. So the fact that they're getting it in four weeks is safe."
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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
"The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose."
"It's safe to give it within six weeks," Alonso said. "So if you were supposed to get it in three weeks, you can get it up to six weeks with no problem."
The CDC added that there is limited data on the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines beyond the six-week window.
To further ease concerns in the community, Alonso said that starting on Saturday, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County will begin scheduling second doses of the Pfizer vaccine for 21 days after the first shot, instead of four weeks.
"Everyone who had received the Pfizer dose from prior, who already has appointments, please keep those appointments," Alonso said. "They're gonna start that change as of Saturday."
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Alonso said she's "grateful" that Palm Beach County is starting to receive more supply of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I am very encouraged that at least, even though we're getting small amount, the small amount has been coming through as promised by the state," Alonso said.
The health director said Palm Beach County needs "a little more push" in the vaccine supply before it can open multiple mass vaccination sites and mobile pop-up units.
A new COVID-19 vaccination center at the South Florida Fairgrounds near West Palm Beach will officially open on Wednesday with a limited number of vaccinations, roughly 500 per day to start. Once the location is fully up and running, a maximum of 7,000 doses will be able to be administered every day, officials said last week.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 192,952 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County, including 156,393 patients who are 65 and older.
Miami-Dade County leads the state with 196,862 vaccinations.
"We have been number two in the state for shots in the arms and are close to being number one, almost surpassing Miami-Dade," said Mary Blakeney, Palm Beach County's emergency management director.
Blakeney added that between Publix pharmacies and government-run sites, 30,000 vaccines are expected to be administered in Palm Beach County this week.
"As soon as we get more supply, we will get the shots in the arms," Blakeney said. "We are seeing signs of hope that we're seeing a little bit more vaccine."
The Florida Department of Health said there are 111,437 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,269 coronavirus-related deaths in Palm Beach County.
The county is averaging 597 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last two weeks, and the average daily positivity rate during that same time is 7.79%. Health officials aim to keep the daily COVID-19 positivity rate below 5% because that allows for more effective contact tracing.