Thousands of Filipinos have skipped or missed their second COVID-19 vaccine shot and there are quite a few reasons as to why this happens.
When Enrique got his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine back in mid-April, he was initially excited. As someone who works for a medical equipment company, his job required him to always be out and go to places where he had a high chance of catching coronavirus like hospitals and clinics. “It felt like this big weight on my back was lifted. That I could finally do my job without being too scared,” he shares. His joy though was short-lived when he started to experience side effects.
His arm where the vaccine was injected started to hurt. He then had a headache that he described as “being hit on the head by a hammer.” Afterward, he developed a high fever that kept him in bed for three days. “I felt so bad, and I was constantly tired. I thought I would have to go to the hospital,” he details. By the time it was his schedule to receive his second dose in late May, Enrique did what some people may consider as the unthinkable, he skipped his appointment. “I’m not going to go through that again.”
Skipping The Second Dose
What Enrique did may seem like an outlier in society, but it is actually more common than you think. As the world races to vaccinate billions of people, a new issue has popped up: people skipping or missing their second dose. It is a phenomenon that is happening in many parts of the world and it is an issue that is also happening in the Philippines.
In early June, Dr. John Wong, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force’s sub-technical working group on data analytics, stated that around 1 million Filipinos have skipped their second vaccine dose. The Department of Health later clarified that the number is more around 100,000. Still, whether it be 1,000,000 or 100,000, that is a large number of people. So, why do people skip their second dose? The answer varies and is dependent on the situation of the person.
Fear Of Side Effects
The first big reason why people skip or miss their second shot is because of a fear of the side effects. Fear of side effects is actually one of the leading reasons why people are hesitant to get the vaccine in the first place, but for people who did experience it, experiencing it again is something they may not be willing to deal with.
After his side effects passed, Enrique says that he felt so drained of the experience. “I was prepared for things to go bad, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” he says, sharing that he didn’t want to risk a repeat of what he experienced. But he does add though that he is tentatively scheduled to get his second dose around late June.
Experiencing side effects after getting the vaccine is a normal reaction. Or at least if it does happen, you shouldn’t be alarmed by it. If ever you do experience side effects and they get worse, there are a few things you can do. You can consult your doctor or call the hotline on your vaccination card. There are resources online to help you learn about and alleviate them. You can talk to the staff at the vaccination site to help you know and prepare for what might happen. After you get your first shot, you are placed in a monitoring room and you can use this time to talk to the staff about what side effects may occur.
Another issue is the fact that the schedule for people’s second dose does not align with their schedule so they can’t go. This is especially true for people who don’t have a flexible schedule, have strict job hours, or don’t have reliable transportation to go to the vaccine site. Ideally, getting a second dose should be easier than the first. The registration and screening process is faster, and the line should be shorter.
In the Philippines, most vaccines administered in the country are done through appointment, not walk-in. And the schedules are usually determined by the LGU, not by the individual. So, the schedule chosen for the person might not be ok for them. Luckily, most, if not all, LGUs offer a rescheduling option if you can’t make it.
Also, government officials have also said that even if you miss your schedule for your second dose, you can and should still get your second shot.
People think one dose is enough
A common misconception people have about the COVID-19 vaccines is that you can get just one shot and you’re protected against the virus, but that is not true. While you may experience some protection, evidence has shown that your protection against COVID-19 is not as strong with one shot compared to two shots. This then can lead you to be more vulnerable to getting COVID-19 when compared to having two doses. It is also not clear how long the protection of a single dose will last. The only currently available vaccine that is delivered in one shot is Johnson & Johnson. Everything else so far is in two doses.
“The first dose is really not enough. Sinasabi na po ito ng ating mga eksperto that you need to get your second dose because it provides you with the maximum potential of the vaccine,” underscores Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire during a town hall forum hosted by the Department of Health. Infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante, in an interview with the Inquirer, said that getting only a single dose will result in “short-lived” protection.
Contracting COVID-19 or Getting Sick
Finally, there is also the fact that people skip or miss their second dose because they contracted COVID-19, got sick, or had an emergency near their scheduled date. Emily, 27, got her first dose in early May. She was scheduled to get her second dose by early June. But near her scheduled date, she was informed that someone she was recently in contact with was tested positive for COVID-19. She went into quarantine and got tested. Because of this, she couldn’t go to her scheduled appointment. “I had two problems going through my mind; one: if I’m positive or not, and two: how I can get my second dose.”
After some research, Emily saw that the city where she lived, Mandaluyong, had numbers she could contact if she missed her appointment. Emily called them up and was able to reschedule her dose for June 24.
While getting sick and missing your second dose is indeed unfortunate, it is also not the end of the world. As shown in Emily’s case, you can still schedule a new appointment. After all, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said that people who missed their scheduled second dose can still get vaccinated by contacting their LGU to book a new appointment.
Get Your Second Dose
At the end of the day, what is important is that you finish your second shot. If you already got your first shot, congratulations, but also, the journey is not done yet. Do not be complacent and think that one shot is good enough because it is not. The only way for the Philippines to go back to normal is if people complete their vaccine doses. Unless you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the current crop of vaccines are delivered in two doses.
If you missed your second dose, try to schedule a new appointment because that is possible. Scared of experiencing side effects? Be more scared of getting COVID-19 and worse dying from it. If you want to fully protect yourself against COVID-19, remember that one dose is not enough. Do your part by getting your second dose. Let’s all be a part of stopping COVID-19.