Coronavirus, Vaccines

Two Doses are Key

U.S. airman receives coronavirus vaccine. PHOTO: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Washington State Department of Health

Our COVID-19 vaccination numbers are rising every week! In fact, we recently vaccinated our one millionth Washington resident, and thousands more are getting the vaccine every day.

If you already got your first shot (or dose), it’s time to start thinking about getting your second one. Even though planning for it might add to your to-do list, please don’t skip it! You need both doses of the vaccine to get the best protection against COVID-19.

Get both doses for the most protection

There are only two COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States. These vaccines, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are both approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, and require two doses to give you the best protection.

The COVID-19 vaccine teaches your immune system to recognize the coronavirus. When you get the vaccine, your immune system makes antibodies or “fighter cells” that stay in your body to protect you from the virus. As a result, you get protection against the disease without getting sick.

The first dose of the vaccine helps your body start making antibodies and provides some protection against COVID-19. The second dose gives your body another opportunity to build even more antibodies to fight the virus. It is very important to get both doses so you have enough antibodies to fight the virus if you get infected.

You need to wait three to four weeks between shots:

· Pfizer-BioNTech doses should be given 3 weeks (21 days) apart

· Moderna doses should be given 1 month (28 days) apart

Plan your second shot as close as possible to the recommended time above, but no sooner. You will also need to wait a while after your second dose for best protection. It takes your body about two weeks to build all the antibodies to provide the maximum coverage.

You might have experienced some minor side effects after you got your first dose, like a sore arm, fatigue, headache, or muscle pain. These effects are normal and mean the vaccine is working! It’s ok to worry about side effects, especially if you’ve had some the first time, but don’t let that prevent you from getting your second dose. Be assured that these vaccines are safe and effective, and they are most effective if you get both doses.

Get ready for your second dose

It’s important to get both doses of the vaccine for the best protection. If you already had your first dose, here’s what you can do to get ready for the second one:

  • Remember which vaccine you got. Your vaccine provider gave you a card that says which vaccine you got and when you will need your second dose. Don’t mix and match Pfizer and Moderna — you need to get the same brand of vaccine for both your first and second dose.
  • Make an appointment to get the second dose. Try to get an appointment at the same place you got the first dose. If you get the second dose at a different site, make sure you are getting the same vaccine as your first dose.
  • Write down the time, date, and location where you will get your second dose. Set a reminder so you don’t forget your appointment.
  • Arrange transportation to get your second dose. If you need a friend or family member to help you, make sure they know ahead of time so they can plan too.
  • Have your questions ready. Write down any questions you might want to ask the vaccine provider when you go in for your second dose.

If you haven’t gotten your first dose, plan to get it as soon as it’s your turn. And if you’re not eligible yet, thank you for waiting patiently! We’re working very hard to get the first and second doses out to all the eligible people as quickly as possible. In the meantime, everyone — even those who got the vaccine — should continue to help keep our communities safe. Please keep wearing your masks, staying six feet apart, washing your hands, and get tested for COVID-19 if you need to.