Rescheduling COVID-19 vaccinations, 2nd doses - what you need to know

Steve Mocarsky, The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
·4 min read

Feb. 22—A combination of inclement weather and misunderstanding among some COVID-19 vaccine providers has worsened a vaccination backlog and pushed second-dose appointments past the recommended 21 to 28 days after first-dose vaccinations for some providers in Pennsylvania.

The situation has caused some confusion among people who are due for second doses of the vaccine, which boosts the body's immunity to the novel coronavirus.

The Citizens' Voice reached out to the state Department of Health and the largest suppliers of COVID-19 vaccine in Luzerne County — Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital — for answers to questions readers might have.

Q: What misunderstanding among some vaccine providers worsened the backlog in vaccination appointments?

A: Some providers inadvertently administered vaccines as first doses that were intended to be used as second doses. This only occurred among some providers who administered the Moderna vaccine, but not for any who administered the Pfizer vaccine.

Q: Will appointments need to be rescheduled only for people who received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine?

A: Delivery delays could affect scheduled appointments for first doses and/or second doses of vaccines provided by either manufacturer, but not all appointments will have to be rescheduled. If you have an appointment for either a first dose or a second dose, your provider will contact you if your appointment must be rescheduled.

Q: What happens if I'm due for a second dose of the vaccine and my appointment had to be rescheduled?

A: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a second dose of the vaccine produced by Pfizer is best administered about 21 days after the first dose, and a second dose of the vaccine produced by Moderna is best administered about 28 days later. But federal guidelines allow for stretching the timeline to 42 days, or six weeks, without a loss of effectiveness, state Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam has said.

Q: What happens if I can't get a second dose of a vaccine within the 42-day time frame? Would I need to start the regimen over and receive three doses of vaccine?

A: Matt Mattei, spokesman for Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp., said that if a patient cannot receive the second dose of vaccine within 42 days for any reason, Geisinger will administer the second dose as soon as possible. According to the CDC, even if the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series, Mattei said.

Q: What is the efficacy of receiving only one dose of the vaccine?

A: "Because these vaccines were studied as a two-dose series, we know the second dose is necessary to reach a peak efficacy of about 95 percent protection against COVID-19 infection," Mattei said.

Q: How much vaccine was delivered to Luzerne County providers last week?

A: None, according to distribution data the state health department posted online Monday. Only 16,150 doses were delivered to 14 providers in 11 counties between Feb. 14 and 16, the nearest being 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine delivered to The Wright Center Mid-Valley in Jermyn, Lackawanna County.

Q: How many doses per week are typically delivered to providers in Luzerne County?

A: Over the three weeks prior to last week, an average of 249,800 doses were delivered each week.

Q: How have delivery issues affected providers in Luzerne County?

A: Some providers have had to reschedule vaccination appointments; others have not. Annmarie Poslock, spokeswoman for Commonwealth Health, which includes Wilkes-Bare General Hospital, said the health system has not had to reschedule any appointments in the last two weeks. However, from Feb. 17 through Feb. 21, Geisinger has rescheduled more than 15,000 appointments systemwide, and more than 5,000 of those appointments were at the CenterPoint vaccine center in Jenkins Township, the site Geisinger Wyoming Valley uses for administering vaccinations, Mattei said.

Q: How long are vaccine shipments being delayed?

A: Poslock said Commonwealth Health is currently experiencing delays ranging from five to 10 days on vaccine shipments. Mattei said about 30,000 doses for Geisinger are arriving about a week late; 12,000 of those doses are for the CenterPoint vaccine center.

Contact the writer: smocarsky@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2110; @MocarskyCV