Millions of Americans may not be getting their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, so some health care facilities are now trying to ensure people don't fall through the cracks.
Justin Chapman is just one example who recently moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Moving south from northern Virginia in the midst of a pandemic brought changes he really didn’t expect.
“A lot of people here don’t do any social distancing, they don’t wear masks, and coming from an environment where compliance was essentially 100%, it’s a big culture shock," Chapman said.
That made him worry about not being fully vaccinated.
“I’m living right now with my parents who are elderly, and I did not want to get them sick," Chapman said.
When he arrived just a few months ago, he was one COVID-19 vaccine down, but eligibility wasn't the same across states.
“When I came down here, I was actually ineligible, so when I got to South Carolina, I had to wait until that window opened up so I could get my second shot," Chapman said.
Finding an available second dose was far from easy and the reality was, it could be weeks before anything became available.
“It was frustrating to me because there is really no national database that is really tracking this so once I got my second dose, they didn’t know I got my first dose even with my card," Chapman said.
His vaccination card wasn’t proof enough. Some facilities expect the data to be in their system, but that’s nearly impossible when that information isn’t shared from one reporting entity to another. The CDC knows that reason alone could be skewing their numbers. According to their data, among people who are eligible for their second shot, nearly 8% have missed it.
Gayley Resetar, the CEO for Tidelands Health in the Myrtle Beach area, doesn’t know if all those people are just not getting the second shot, or if they received it in a different place and there is no record of it.
“The very first opportunity to get the vaccine, we gave people a second dose appointment time," Resetar said. “We are right at around 1.8%, 1.9% of those we gave the first one to that haven’t returned for a second.”
The inconsistent reporting is a problem, but Gayle says the bigger issue is people not being fully vaccinated.
“The concept of the two doses was challenging to people," Resetar said. “They’ve missed their second dose appointment. They were sick, they got it someplace else, they drove to another state and now they can’t go again, 100 different reasons.”
She wanted to make sure Tidelands could cater to people with any of those reasons for not receiving it just yet.
“You don’t have to have it in the same place, you don’t have to have it in the same state," Resetar said.
Most health care facilities, like Tidelands Health, are given equal amounts of first and second doses of the vaccine.
“I have to have an allocation of vaccines. I’m not going to risk not having a second dose for somebody who I gave the first one," Resetar said.
So, Gayle and her team knew in order to be able to serve those patients, they had to work with the state to receive more. It took some time, but once they had extra inventory, word spread fast.
“We communicated directly with every single Pfizer provider," Resetar said.
Extra doses, flexible schedules, and multiple locations was a recipe for success. Alicia Cavallino, a South Carolina resident, says they found the process more than easy.
“Even today, I had an earlier appointment and couldn’t make it, so I said can I come in later and they said 'absolutely,'" Cavallino said. “We want to get back to living our lives and I think this is the way we can do it as a country and do it all together.”
That’s a world many people want back, beach fronts packed, restaurants full, streets of tourist towns like Myrtle Beach swarming with visitors from all over the country. As Gayle says, receiving not just the first but the second dose as well will get us closer to that reality.
“For everyone we give, it matters," Resetar said.
“Consider all of your options, think about what life was like before 2020, before you had ever heard of COVID-19 or the coronavirus, and is it worth it to get a shot to get back to that?” Chapman said.