Health officials in NC run into problems as many don’t return for 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine

North Carolina news

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WJZY) – Local health officials are wondering if the newly approved Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine will make a big difference as many people aren’t showing up for their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Nearly 4 million doses of the new vaccine are being rolled out across the country just days after the FDA approved it for emergency use.

North Carolina will receive more than 80,000 of the doses this week. They are expected to start arriving on Wednesday.

On Monday, WJZY visited a Charlotte vaccine event where they are averaging 3,000 appointments a day, but over in Rowan County, officials say they’re seeing a problem with people not coming back for their second dose.

County health officials there say about 10 percent of people aren’t showing up for the second shot.

“We really need people to show up for that second dose,” said Rowan County Interim Health Director Alyssa Harris. 

Some excuses they’re hearing are maybe someone isn’t feeling well, they’re out of town, or they’re just a little skittish to get the second shot.

“Maybe people are out of town, maybe they’re not feeling well that day, maybe there’s a type of family emergency,” Harris said. 

Others may be worried about the potential side effects, which include tiredness, headaches and chills. Harris wanted to remind people that skipped appointments do affect them. 

Officials want people to know the impact a no-show has on their vaccine rollout. Even if they give that vaccine to someone else, it causes problems with the overall schedule and it’s putting health officials in a bit of a bind. 

“If it can be used as a first dose, then that person doesn’t have a second dose and then you no longer have a second dose, so that’s why we try to stay away from using second doses as first doses,” Harris said.

What officials can’t track is if someone who was a no-show for their appointment went somewhere else to get their shot or if they just skipped it.

“It really does throw off the inventory for us all and it does make it a difficult way to see the full picture of immunity,” she said. 

WJZY reached out to every county public health director in the Charlotte viewing area. In Catawba County, 98 percent of people who get their first shot return for their second shot and that data was just for the county. They don’t track Walgreens and or CVS which are also administering the shots.

“My plans are to get the second dose,” one person told WJZY as she left a vaccine clinic in east Charlotte. 

“You do take it because not only are you protecting yourself, you’re protecting your loved ones and those in your community,” said another man. 

Burke County has only three people to date who didn’t get their second shot within the recommended timeframe, according to officials. 

“I’m excited to get my second shot and be fully vaccinated,” said one woman who just got her first shot. 

Some officials are hoping the single Johnson & Johnson shot will help get more people fully vaccinated.

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