‘It’s concerning:’ Up to 40,000 Orange County residents have skipped second COVID-19 vaccine dose

First dose alone won’t provide full protection, doctor says

FILE - In this April 5, 2021, file photo, Leanne Montenegro, 21, covers her eyes as she doesn't like the sight of needles, while she receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a FEMA vaccination center at Miami Dade College in Miami. In the U.S, meanwhile, more than one-fourth of the population nearly 90 million people has been fully vaccinated and supplies are so robust that some states are turning down planned shipments from the federal government. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County residents who are overdue on their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to complete the series as quickly as possible, especially as the two largest sites in the region wind down operations.

Dr. Raul Pino, the health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said that tens of thousands of residents have skipped out on their second dose thus far.

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“It’s concerning that up to the maximum could be at around 40,000 people may have not been completed their second dose,” Pino said.

While the first dose alone may be about 60% effective in warding off a potential infection, Pino said full protection is needed and will better help the community recover from the devastation the virus has caused.

“Please complete your series,” Pino implored. “Although you acquire some level of protection when you have just one of dose, we are not sure how long that will last, or how high. Your best chances to get full immunity, it is by having your second dose of Moderna or Pfizer.”

No matter how overdue someone is, they will still be given the second dose without having to start the whole series over again.

While Moderna doses are given 28 days apart and Pfizer is given 21 days apart, it’s unclear at what point someone is considered overdue since the shots can be administered later than that.

For those hoping to get vaccinated at the Orange County Convention Center, Pino said to act fast because the last day for first doses is on Saturday and May 14 and May 15 will be the last days that the Moderna formula is provided at the site before the site closes entirely on May 22.

Those looking to get inoculated there before then will need to make an appointment at ocfl.net/vaccine and note the new reduced hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Monday.

Thus far, about 43.66% of residents 16 and older have been vaccinated, meaning the county still has about 6% left to go before it can reach the second phase of Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ approach to scaling back the mask mandate.

Pino said that could happen soon.

“For the second phase, we get to that 50%, that will take at the rate that we are going up to three weeks. If some data changes happen, it will be very rapid,” Pino said.

The second phase involves lifting the mask mandate for people who are outdoors.

One thing helping to move the needle in the right direction, according to Pino, is the new emphasis on mobile vaccination sites. With both the convention center site and FEMA site at Valencia College’s West Campus closing at the end of May, health leaders will instead focus on pop-up events.

“I think the changes in the strategy that the county, on our word, has put together, I think it’s going to help reach now pockets of the population that may have not been able to get the convention center and get to the Valencia because we are going into the neighborhoods. Now we are going to have fixed shops in the neighborhood,” Pino said.

Those fixed spots will be at four community centers starting Tuesday:

All four sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. They’re closed on Mondays.

No appointments are required and about 1,000 doses will be given at each site per day.

While the hospitalization rate is going down and Pino expects to see further declines going forward, he said the only way to truly put the pandemic behind us is through inoculations.

“What we have to do is try to get as many people immunized as possible,” Pino said.