According to Florida's Department of Health, some 1,183,000 initial vaccine doses have been administered throughout the state, but so far only 123,900, people have received their second shot.
Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, an epidemiologist and professor at Florida International University, spoke to NBC 6 about the importance of the second dose. Here's what she had to say about timing the vaccine doses, managing a short supply of appointments and practicing coronavirus safety.
The following interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Why is the vaccine's second dose so important?
The second dose functions as a booster, so it's super important in order to get full protection from the vaccine. Depending on the vaccine, people should try to get their second dose as close as possible to the required time period.
People also need to realize that while you can't get your second dose too early, that is, it's not good to get it too early, it is okay if you get it a little bit later. You don't need to restart the entire series if you're a little late with your second dose.
The problem with getting it too late is that you don't have the full protection. People should really try to get their second dose as close as possible to the recommended time period, because that will give them the best protection.
What if I'm not able to receive the second dose in time?
If for whatever reason somebody is overdue, like they couldn't get the appointment scheduled or whatever the problem is, they should just keep trying to get that second dose so that they get the full protection. They will not need to restart the series.
The CDC is not setting a limit on the second dose in terms of time, so if you get it two days too late, you can still get your second dose. If you get it two weeks too late, you can still get your second dose, and even longer. They don't have a limit. Again, the problem with getting it too late is that you don't get the full protection as soon as you otherwise would have.
I recommend to those people who maybe are too late in the second dose, try to get that second dose scheduled, and that might be difficult. I mean, we're having erratic vaccine supplies, and things are not going as smoothly as anybody would want them to.
Why might some people not be getting the second dose?
We need more data on this; this needs to be looked into so we can assess what the problem is.
It could be issues relating to people not understanding the importance of the second dose, them not being able to get in, possibly vaccine supply, or possibly some of these people did get their second shot, and it simply wasn't recorded in the system yet.
It could be all those things, and it's such an important thing that needs to be looked into.
Do vaccinated people need to follow other coronavirus safety protocols?
What's really important for everybody to remember is that even if you did get your entire series of the vaccine, you still need to wear your mask and do the physical distancing.
We don't have the complete data to show us that you cannot be infectious. It is possible that people are, and they're probably much less infectious than they would be without the vaccine.
But still, we need everybody to wear their mask and practice social distancing. It's especially important now with the new variants that we're seeing in Florida.