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Thousands of Iowans continue to go without the second shot in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest state public health data.
About 64,000 Iowans have skipped, delayed or otherwise missed receiving the second dose of the two-shot vaccine series as of July 2, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Of 95,362 individuals have initiated a COVID-19 vaccine series, 64,076 of these individuals have met the minimum interval — or gone past the recommended time frame — for receiving their second dose, state data shows.
The minimum interval between doses for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 21 days. For Moderna, it’s 28 days.
Among the approximately 64,000 Iowans who have failed to receive the second shot, 6,059 individuals are between one to seven days past that minimum interval, officials say.
In early May, of the more than 275,013 individuals who initiated the series, 66,490 Iowans had not received their second COVID-19 shot within the recommended time frame, according to state data obtained by The Gazette.
Even if individuals surpass that recommended time frame, experts say it's not too late to get that second shot.
“It’s important they get it as soon as they can,” said Dr. Pat Winokur, infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Research has shown individuals still achieve a strong immune response against the novel coronavirus if they receive the second shot beyond the three-week interval, Winokur said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals can receive the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines up to 42 days, or six weeks, after the first dose. However, federal officials emphasize it’s essential individuals get that second shot as close to the recommended interval as possible.
It’s common for individuals to forget to go back for final shots in multiple-dose vaccine series. Scientists studying erratic intervals between doses in other vaccine series have found individuals’ immune response still does well, “even when they have a lackadaisical approach,” Winokur said.
Nearly 55 percent of Iowans aged 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of this past Wednesday, according to the state’s coronavirus date. That total accounts for 46 percent of Iowa’s total population.
But the virus still has had opportunity to continue spreading across the United States. That means it has had the ability to mutate into new, more dangerous variants.
As of June, a highly transmissible variant became the most dominant variant in Iowa. In the week ending June 25, the state lab identified the variant in 53 percent of strains identified through routine sequencing.
First detected in India in December, the Delta variant since has made a rapid sweep throughout parts of the world before it was first recorded in the United States in March. The variant accounted for about 52 percent of coronavirus infections nationwide, according to estimates from the CDC.
Because it is spreading so readily, Americans have an increased chance of being exposed to someone infected by this variant — which increases their risk of becoming ill, Winokur said.
Those who both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are protected against the variant. However, only one dose of the vaccine does not offer as much protection as two.
“We are going to see more breakthrough in infections in impartially vaccinated individuals,” Winokur said.
A single shot of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series “barely” offers any protection against the Delta variant, according to a report published this month in the journal “Nature.”
Scientists conducting the study did find two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine offer “significant” protection against the variant.
Winokur encouraged Iowans to get vaccinated and to complete their two-dose series if they haven’t already done so. The more people who are immunized against COVID-19, the less chance the virus has to mutate into variants that could pose a greater risk.
“Every time it replicates in an infected person, it is undergoing mutations and we’re allowing the possibility for selection of a new variant that is less covered by the vaccine, is more transmissible and causes more death,” she said.
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