CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – For residents who received a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, two doses are required to be considered “fully vaccinated.”  

There’s a 28-day recommended time period between when you received your first dose of the Moderna vaccine and when you should get your second. And for residents who received the Pfizer vaccine, there’s a 21-day recommended time period between the two doses.  

But what happens if you miss that time period? Do you have to start the process over?   

“If you have forgotten to take your dose, and it has reached that 6-month period, it is better at that time – because we have so many people qualifying for that third dose – to go ahead and start over that vaccination process. So, you can get that second dose, then wait that 28 days for that next dose. That way you know you’re fully protected and fully immunized,” says Dr. Sherri Young, the Health Officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

She says waiting too long to receive the second dose could change the effectiveness of the vaccine.  

Will the protection be the same if you don’t start over?  

“What we do know is that, even if you’ve had your two doses, after about 6-8 months you start losing that immunity. So, if you’ve only had one shot, then you are going to start losing that immunity as well,” Dr. Young explains.

How much of a delay is okay before you recommend starting over?  

“If you get to about the 6-week period and you remember, go ahead and get that vaccine. But if you wait that full 6 months, it’s time to start that vaccination process over again, just out of an abundance of safety. We know that the recommendations are that if it’s been longer than 6 months for the Pfizer, we know that those recommendation are going to be coming out soon for the Moderna and the Johnson and Johnson as well. First, talk to your health care provider, but it may be time to restart those shots. Just so you get the maximum benefit,” says Dr. Young.

She says when you’re going in for your second shot, be sure to bring your vaccination card. This will allow health care officials to easily see when you received your first dose, and they can help you determine the next steps.  

If you lost your card, the health department says that information has also been stored in various locations, so health officials are able to find it for you.  

What’s the difference between the second dose and the booster shot?  

“Pfizer’s third dose is the exact same preparation, the exact same dose, as the first two shots. That’s why we refer to it as an additional dose. We also refer to it as an additional dose for our immune-compromised patients who are getting that third dose of Moderna – because they’re getting that same third dose, same preparation, same bottle, nothing is unique about that third dose. What may change as we get the official word from the FDA is that, for the regular public – those who are not immune-compromised, that third dose of Moderna may be a slightly lower amount or slightly lower dose. There’s a lot unknown about that, we’ll see what the FDA says; but for right now, if you’re getting that third dose, it is the same medicine and the same dose,” says Dr. Young.

She also suggests residents “put it in your calendar when you’re due for your second shot,” as the days can go by quickly.  

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department encourages residents to visit the health department if they have any questions or are in need of a follow-up appointment.