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Second Shot in Different State Could Be Skewing Total Vaccination Numbers

April 28, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
Medical staff members administer the AstraZeneca vaccine. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Stefani Jahjahrova, a 30-year-old Costco employee, received her first vaccine shot in Denver only five days before transferring to a new work location in Virginia. 

“I was told I need to reach out to arrange an appointment, and it’s up to me to make that second shot happen, no one is following up to make sure it happens,” said Jahjahrova. 

The Biden administration announced last week that nearly half of all Americans have had at least one vaccine shot, but when it comes to second shots individuals may not receive them in the same state in which they started, which is skewing total vaccination numbers. 

“The goal is to get vaccines in arms, and we want people to be fully vaccinated, it could skew the numbers and we want to rectify that but the whole goal is to get the population vaccinated as quickly as we can,” said Sulola Adekoya, the medical director of Community Health Services at Virginia Department of Health. 

Adekoya said that employers like Costco often work with pharmacies in neighboring states to provide vaccines for their employees, and that these employers have been very aggressive about ensuring those vaccines are provided. 

A joint statement issued by Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, on January 25, 2021, advises that individuals can hop between states to receive a vaccine but only if the individual works in one of the three locations.

“Individuals who are currently eligible for vaccination based on their occupations should first check with employers to see if vaccination arrangements have already been made, if not they should contact the local health department in localities where they work,” said the written statement. 

Jahjahrova will arrive in Virginia and resume work at a Costco in Manassas, and although she plans to schedule her second shot as soon as possible, she is concerned about meeting her second shot deadline of May 15. 

“I asked if it could be scheduled a few days around it, but the nurse who gave me my shot at the Costco pharmacy in Denver said it needs to be pretty accurate to the actual day,” said Jahjahrova. 

“If they don’t have proof of the date they received the vaccine, we would not send them away, but would call the site and try to locate where the vaccine was had, as most vaccine sites do have a record, and as healthcare providers we have means of getting records with patient consent,” said Adekoya. 

Other than not making her second shot deadline, Jahjahrova worries that the Virginia site won’t carry the same vaccine she received the first time around. 

“I am scared, some Costco’s have Pfizer, and I’m still not 100% sure if they will have Moderna, which is what I received,” said Jahjahrova. 

“We don’t want to mix the vaccines and give second doses, that isn’t right, so we would make every effort to figure that out before giving the next vaccine,” said Adekoya. 

Adekoya said the most important thing to remember is where you had your first shot, and that in Virginia there is no proof of identity needed to schedule a vaccine appointment, only a self-reported address is required. 

In Alabama, some people were turned away for second doses who had received their first vaccine out-of-state, because the vaccines were needed for Alabama residents. 

“Finding a second dose appointment for a particular COVID-19 vaccine for people who went out of state to get vaccinated is something the state would rather not have to deal with,” said Deputy Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers to reporters in March. 

However, in an interview with TWN, Landers changed stance, and said, “ if persons are residents of other states, they can be vaccinated in Alabama,” and that the state has no current waste of vaccines or vaccine shortages as, “clinics are asked to prepare only the amount of vaccine expected to be used in a session.” 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collected through March 29, found that one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is thrown out for every 850 administered, as they are unused, spoiled, expired or wasted. 

Despite Alabama turning away out-of-state individuals because of alleged need for vaccines, there are now people across the U.S. who are missing their second doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, complicating whether individuals should be turned away for a second dose in a new state, if those doses would otherwise be wasted. 

“We don’t have that problem right now, we have enough vaccines, and we have enough demand, so we don’t anticipate such a problem,” said Adekoya. 

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