RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It might seem like a mixed message from the state: You need two shots of the most popular vaccines to be fully inoculated — but just one to qualify for the $1 million and scholarship drawings.
“I think, in the end,” Elizabeth Ramsey said, “one shot’s better than no shot.”
The first of the state’s four $1 million drawings — along with drawings for $125,000 scholarships for children between 12 and 17 — happens Wednesday, an incentive that state leaders hoped would spark vaccination rates that had sagged in recent weeks.
North Carolinians who received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in the state by Sunday night are eligible for the drawings.
But could that requirement also be interpreted as a tacit acknowledgment that one dose is good enough?
Ramsey, the director of the vaccine clinic at the University of North Carolina’s Friday Center, says no.
“We certainly want patients to get those shots, but if we can get them in the door, and then educate them on the importance of two doses, then that ultimately will be the most effective way to get both doses in a majority of patients,” Ramsey said Tuesday. “Even if a handful don’t show up for their second dose. I think any way that we can get patients in, showing up, whether it’s for a lottery ticket or some other incentive, I think that’s a really effective way to get our state vaccinated.”
Ramsey says just over 1 percent of people getting their first doses at the Friday Center don’t return for Dose 2, with that figure ticking up slightly over the past month while also remaining below the national average.
The most recent figure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April pegged that figure at about 8 percent nationally.
The state Department of Health and Human Services does not post on its dashboard how many of its nearly 4.4 million first-dose recipients failed to show up for their second doses.
But some basic math leads to an estimate of about 2 percent — still well below that national rate.
The state showed about 306,000 people have received first doses but not second ones. Of those, about 220,000 received those first shots in the past four weeks — meaning they aren’t able to get their second shot yet.
But that leaves about 88,000 people who may be outside the window.
“Patients might still be comfortable getting that first dose,” Ramsey said.
CDC data show the two-dose vaccines have an efficacy of 80 percent two weeks after the first dose — a rate that jumps to 90 percent when two weeks pass after the second shot.
“Most people who have gotten one dose have gotten their second dose, but we do have some people who haven’t,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health in the Biden Administration.
“One shot is not protective enough against (the) Delta variant. Two shots, however, of the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine are very, very effective, but not one shot. So it’s very important that people complete the full series.”
President Biden is scheduled to visit Raleigh on Thursday to encourage vaccination.
But what, exactly, can the president’s visit actually accomplish?
“The President is going to talk about the the progress that we have made,” Levine said. “We have administered well over 310 million shots (and) 175 million Americans have now received at least one shot, and the importance of the vaccines, especially with this Delta variant.”