PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — “Somebody please tell me, where can I get my second shot?” is a question on the minds of several people across Hampton Roads, including Denise Magee of Portsmouth.
She got her first COVID-19 vaccine shot four weeks ago at a community services board in the Harbor View section of Suffolk. Right after she got that initial shot Jan. 20, she received a message from the CDC to schedule her second through the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) portal. Neither her initial location nor anywhere in Portsmouth was an available site for the second dose.
It was a case of “any port in a storm,” so she “had to go with the Virginia Beach Convention Center,” the only available site.
Several viewers told 10 On Your Side that they only had one option four weeks ago, including a WAVY staff member. His first shot was at the Portsmouth SportsPlex, but it too was not listed as available for second doses.
When it came time yesterday for Magee’s supposed appointment for a second dose, she got turned away.
“[The Virginia Beach Department of Public Health staff member] looked at my vaccine card and said ‘You didn’t get your first dose here, so you can’t get your second one’ and would not allow me to get my second dose at the convention center.”
Despite the complaints, the Portsmouth Health Department said Friday afternoon it “has assured all of our clients that if they received their first dose at our site, they can return for their second dose. To decrease confusion we recommend that all clients return to where they were initially vaccinated as well,” said Avanti Allen-Benson, population health manager for the department.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health acknowledged people were showing up for second doses at some locations after getting their first doses elsewhere. The department said it was an “issue with the software” that has since been corrected.
However, the department strongly recommends that people return to their original location for their second dose and issued this statement:
“It is very important that people schedule their second dose vaccination appointment with the same health district that administered their first dose vaccine. However, in collaboration with several local health districts, VBDPH will provide second dose vaccination to individuals with legitimately scheduled appointments, regardless of where they received the first dose. Staff will keep track of individuals who received their first shot in another district to identify trends and adjust messaging and vaccine supply as necessary.
“From the beginning, Virginia Beach Department of Public Health (VBDPH) has committed to guaranteeing a second dose vaccine for everyone who receives their first dose from VBDPH. To ensure timely availability of sufficient vaccine for second doses, vaccine distribution throughout the state has involved careful planning to ship second dose quantities automatically to the health district where the first dose was administered.
“If an individual who received their first dose from another health district were to seek their second dose in Virginia Beach, they would be, in essence, taking a second dose and appointment slot reserved for someone who received their first dose in Virginia Beach, making it difficult for VBDPH to fulfill its obligation to provide second dose shots for everyone who received a first dose from the health district.
“Over the past week, a number of individuals from other health districts came to Virginia Beach for their second doses. Previously, the Centers for Disease Control’s vaccine tracking system, Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) allowed anyone with an account to see and schedule an appointment at closed vaccine distribution clinics across the country. This feature allowed people who did not originally get vaccinated in Virginia Beach to schedule their second doses at the Convention Center. Unfortunately, the system does not allow VBDPH to see where someone who has an appointment in VAMS originally received their first dose of vaccine. It wasn’t until people physically arrived at the Convention Center clinic to check in with a vaccination card from another health district that VBDPH staff realized that they had not been vaccinated in Virginia Beach. This issue with the software has since been corrected. VBDPH does not anticipate that this will be a problem for future appointments.“
The recommended interval between shots for the Pfizer vaccine is 21 days and for Moderna it’s 28 days. But don’t panic if you don’t hit those intervals exactly. The CDC says both vaccines will be effective even if you have to wait up to six weeks between doses.
From the CDC’s latest guidance, issued February 10:
“The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval and a delay in vaccination is unavoidable, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be administered up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. There are currently limited data on efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.“