What to Do If Your 2nd Vaccine Shot Is Canceled

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Young man getting vaccine
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After waiting more than a year to get your first COVID-19 vaccine shot, imagine being told at the last possible moment that the appointment to get your second shot — needed to gain full immunity — has been canceled.

It happened to Ashley J. Dearborn.

Less than 24 hours before she was scheduled to get a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Walgreens nixed the Chicago resident’s appointment.

As you can imagine, Dearborn, 58, was not thrilled. She told the Chicago Tribune:

“I freaked out because I thought, ‘How can you cancel? It’s less than 24 hours.’ I have to go through this whole merry-go-round, Hunger Games scenario again (to make an appointment).”

Unfortunately, Dearborn was not the only one inconvenienced. Walgreens informed others that their appointments were being canceled as well. Walgreens had enough of the Moderna vaccine, but had run out of the Pfizer vaccine.

What should you do if you end up in similar circumstances?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if you receive a vaccine that requires two shots, you should get your second shot:

  • Three weeks after the first if you are getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • Four weeks after the first if you are getting the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

The CDC urges you to get the second shot as close to those timetables as you can. The CDC adds that you should not get the second dose early. On the other hand, it says that in a pinch, you can wait up to six weeks after the first shot to get the second.

For now, though, there is limited information about how effective the second shot is if you get it earlier than recommended or later than six weeks after the first dose, the CDC says. So, if your second appointment disappears, you will need to hustle to get it rescheduled.

The CDC says anytime you need to set up an appointment for a second shot, the first move is to reach out to the location that scheduled your first shot. So, see if that provider can offer a makeup date any time soon. If not, the CDC suggests the following:

“If you are having trouble or have questions about using a vaccination management or scheduling system, reach out to the organization that enrolled you in the system. This may be your state or local health department, employer, or vaccination provider.​”

What happens if you can’t schedule an appointment within the six-week window? The CDC says you simply should try to get the second shot as soon as you can. You do not need to restart your vaccination process from the beginning.

However, think twice if the vaccine provider offers to give you a different vaccine brand for your second dose. The CDC says you should not do this unless you are in exceptional circumstances and don’t have much choice.

For more on the COVID-19 vaccine, check out “7 Things to Avoid After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine.”

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