DPH tells providers: Make sure people show up for second COVID shot

Photo of Nicholas Rondinone
Clinical vaccinator Hayley Lindor vaccinates a patient at the Community Health Center Drive-Thru Vaccination Clinic in Stamford, Conn. Sunday, April 11, 2021. Hundreds of Norwalk Public School students 16 and older received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Sunday at the clinic.

Clinical vaccinator Hayley Lindor vaccinates a patient at the Community Health Center Drive-Thru Vaccination Clinic in Stamford, Conn. Sunday, April 11, 2021. Hundreds of Norwalk Public School students 16 and older received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Sunday at the clinic.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

While much of the effort has been to get more Connecticut residents the first dose of the COVID vaccine, the state Department of Public Health has turned its attention to ensuring people show up for the second shot.

In a memo to vaccine providers this week, DPH suggested they make substantial efforts to reach individuals to ensure they get their second dose before considering the person “lost.”

“DPH is monitoring second timeliness and completion rates by provider and will be following up with providers who are lagging on second-dose completion,” DPH said in the communication.

DPH data shows that 96.7 percent of people have received their second dose or are within the allowable window between doses.

As the vaccine efforts continue, Connecticut reported on Wednesday a 2.26 percent positivity rate of new COVID-19 tests. Hospitalizations dropped by a net of 37 patients to a recent low of 406. The state also reported an additional 13 COVID deaths for a total of 8,080.

Much of the conversation about vaccinations in recent weeks has been about increasing the amount of people getting the first dose, but as demand wanes and supply increases, focus is slowly turning to making sure people then get fully vaccinated.

While Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires one dose, the Pfizer and Moderna inoculations each require two doses for the maximum protection against COVID, and state statistics show those vaccines account for about 94 percent of all first doses.

The last official tally from the state showed that 1.8 million first doses had been administered, and of that number, more than 1.2 million people are fully vaccinated. Both numbers reflect about 108,000 single doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

While Connecticut has a rate of about 3.3 percent for people who may have missed their second shot, the number was higher nationwide.

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about 5 million people, or about 8 percent, had missed or skipped their second dose of the vaccine, The New York Times reported.

DPH asked providers in this week’s communication to reach out to a person three times about a second dose. They were asked to use several methods to reach the person, including emails, text messages and phone calls.

DPH changed it’s second-dose policy on April 19, informing providers that they are expected to schedule a second dose during the first shot and that it should fall closely in line with the recommendations from the vaccine makers. Pfizer recommends people get a second dose in 21 days and Moderna recommends a second dose in 28 days.

“The longer the interval, the more likely someone will be lost to follow-up,” DPH said.

In the Yale New Haven Health system, getting people to show up for the second dose hasn't been a huge issue yet, said Dr. Ohm Deshpande, an internist and the system's vice president of population health.

"The number of dose-two no-shows has not been increasing substantially," he said. "There's some of that that we're seeing, but it's not an epidemic."

Though he didn't have data, Deshpande said pop-ups at community venues such as churches and mosques have been particularly successful at getting people to show up for the second dose.

"It's still going very well," he said. "We're not having a huge problem with our second-dose vaccination."

Stratford Health Director Andrea Boissevain said the town gets about 15 to 30 no-shows per clinic, but she didn’t know how many of those were missed second doses.

She said the town takes several steps to ensure people show up to their second-dose appointments, including emailing people the night before their appointment and calling or emailing people the day of a clinic if it’s an hour past their appointment and they haven’t shown up.

“We will now (also) run reports post-clinics to determine who hasn’t receive a second dose, and then try and reach out again,” Boissevain said.

As Connecticut plans to lift more restrictions amid progress with the vaccination program, DPH is urging people to get a second dose of the vaccine.

“DPH and our provider partners strongly urge everyone receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get their second dose of vaccine in order to ensure that they have the maximum level of protection against COVID-19,” the department said in a statement. “One dose of the vaccine is not nearly as effective as two doses, and with current and new variants circulating in Connecticut and around the world, the safest, most effective way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from this virus is to complete the two dose series of Pfizer or Moderna or to take the one dose J&J vaccine.”

Staff writer Amanda Cuda contributed to this story.