Can't Get Your Second Vaccine Dose on Time? Don't Panic - Here's What a Doctor Says to Do

Maggie Ryan
·3-min read

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two separate doses to reach their full effectiveness, which are given 21 or 28 days after the first dose, respectively. But vaccine distribution around the country has been disorganized (to put it lightly), and record-breaking winter storms across the country aren't helping, already forcing some vaccine providers to cancel appointments for second doses. Whatever the reason, don't panic if you can't get your second shot right on time. We asked a doctor if this is a serious problem and what to do if you miss that second dose day.

What Should I Do If I Can't Get My Second Vaccine Shot on Time?

"You can get your second dose later," said Aruna Subramanian, MD, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford. The CDC confirms that, noting that you can still get your second shot up to six weeks after your first. As Dr. Subramanian explained, there's nothing inherently harmful about getting it after that three- or four-week waiting period; it's just that, by waiting longer, you're spending more time without the full protection you get with both doses.

The 21- or 28-day window between doses is the minimum recommended time for you to wait, Dr. Subramanian explained, a period that allows your immune system to mount a response before the second shot. "If you go beyond that time, there's nothing dangerous about it," she told POPSUGAR. The reason that specific waiting period is recommended is because doctors don't want you to completely skip your second dose.

Related: This Doctor Wants You to Avoid Alcohol After You Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine - Here's Why

That being said, if you can't get your shot on the recommended day, make sure you get it as soon as possible after. You don't want to go longer than you have to without full protection. This isn't a case where your vaccination window has closed, Dr. Subramanian said; the second dose will still be effective, and you should absolutely still get it, even if it's late.

So, in conclusion: if you're getting a two-dose vaccine (either Pfizer or Moderna), sign up for your second dose on the recommended day. But if you have to miss that, no need to panic - you can get your shot later and it will still be effective. And as always, continue to take the CDC's recommended safety precautions both before and after you're vaccinated by wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing your hands frequently.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.

Related: Now That Everyone's Double-Masking, Here's How to Make Sure You're Doing It Right