TAMPA, Fla. - Dr. Thomas Unnasch is a researcher and a public health professor at the University of South Florida. He also happens to be one of the 915,897 lucky Floridians who have been able to secure their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Next week, he’ll get his second shot, joining the 91,819 people in Florida who are now considered immune.
"They handed me the card and said 'You're all set to go. Come back in three weeks at exactly the same time, and we'll give you the second dose,’" explained Unnasch.
However, as of Sunday afternoon, the Florida Department of Health’s website shows that thousands of Floridians are missing that follow-up appointment as nearly 41,000 people are now overdue for their second dose.
"If you're going to go for only one shot, you're not really going to be necessarily protected, and the immune response you're going to get, the protection, probably isn't going to last that long," said Unnasch.
That’s because the COVID-19 vaccine is a two-part series. To obtain maximum protection, you need both shots.
"When they completed the clinical trials, people who had gotten only one shot had about 50 percent protection from getting infected a second time," said Unnasch. "For the people who had two shots, it was 95 percent."
While there's no one specific reason as to why so many people are missing their second dose, Dr. Unnasch says the thousands of no-shows could have something to do with possible side effects.
"The immune response the second time around is a lot more robust than the first shot," Unnasch explained. "One of the disadvantages to that is that you may feel a lot cruddier after the second shot."
However, he added that symptoms like slight aches and pains and a low-grade fever are not cause for alarm.
"If you do have a few symptoms, it means it is working. That's a good sign. That's good news."
He says with COVID numbers still on the rise, receiving both doses of the vaccine is the key to making sure this pandemic will soon be a distant memory.
"If we're ever going to get our lives back, we need to get as many people immune as possible."