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Fact Finders: COVID-19 vaccine spacing of doses

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 5:42 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It turns out, there is some flexibility when it comes to the timing between COVID-19 vaccine doses. In fact, spacing out your vaccines a little more might even have some perks.

The recommended wait time between the first and second dose of Pfizer is 21 days. For Moderna, the recommendation is 28 days. That’s according to the CDC. However, what happens when you extend that by weeks or months? Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunobiologist at the University of Arizona, says the U-K is doing just that and seeing positive results.

“They’re actually seeing slightly better antibodies being made when you space it out,” he said.

Not only that, but Dr. Sean Elliott with Tucson Medical Center says when you wait a little longer there are fewer reports of side effects. He says that’s largely because your immune response isn’t quite as active anymore. Here’s his analogy explaining the immune response in your body from the first dose to the second.

“It’s kind of like we’ve called out the SWAT team. We have an active scene, everybody’s there and they’re all ready for a fight. Give it a couple weeks in this case, and we start to deescalate the response. They’re still there. The SWAT team is still in the garage ready to come back out again but they’re not right there ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said Dr. Elliott.

So, if you do decide to delay your second dose, how much protection do you have in the interim?

“A single dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines is still upwards of 60% to 70% effective,” said Dr. Elliott.

And, what are the potential negative effects of waiting?

“There’s nothing magic about it has to be three or four weeks and from an immunological standpoint there’s no obvious reason I can think of why you couldn’t stretch it out a little bit longer,” said Bhattacharya.

Bhattacharya says he doesn’t worry this news will mean more people will go against the current CDC recommendations. He believes the biggest hurdle isn’t with second doses but rather with getting people their first shot.

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