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Delaware's COVID vaccine completion rate tops national average, but has room to improve

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Fewer than one in ten Delawareans who started a two-dose COVID vaccine missed their second shot. That’s better than the nationwide average.

As of the middle of last month, about 11% of people across the country missed their second shot, according to the CDC. In Delaware, state public health officials say that number is just under 9%. 

CDC data show Delaware reached its goal of 70% of people over 18 having at least one dose of the vaccine before the 4th of July. But right now fewer than half of all Delawareans are fully vaccinated, according to the state. Both shots of a two-dose vaccine are required for it to be fully effective. 

Dr. Yvette Gbemudu, a family medicine physician with Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington, says there are many reasons people might miss their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna. 

“There have been so many pop-up pods and events that happened… maybe the event was on a Sunday but now you need a weekday second dose, and that doesn’t fit the person’s schedule,” she said. “It could also be that the person did get ill the first time so they’re afraid to take the second dose.”

State public health officials add people may be less motivated to get the second shot now that cases of the virus have declined.

But Gbemudu says getting both shots of a two-dose vaccine is important for personal and public health. 

“It’s as important as getting the first,” she said. “If you’re given a two-dose vaccine, there’s no thinking that getting the first gives you the protection that you need.”

The Delaware Division of Public Health says a single dose is thought to provide 52% to 80% protection—but the state is “committed” to ensuring all Delawareans get their second dose within 42 days of their first. The CDC recommends the second shot of a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 21 days after the first and the second shot of a Moderna vaccine 28 days after the first.

“We would be concerned about anyone not completing the COVID-19 vaccine series and would emphasize that it is not too late to complete the series as there is currently no recommendation to repeat the first dose after a certain amount of time,” said DPH spokesperson Mary Fenimore in an email Thursday. “Getting both doses of Pfizer or Moderna is important in order to obtain full protection offered against COVID-19, and is especially important for protecting against variants.”

The state sends automated reminders for second shots. But Dr. Joan Coker, an ear, nose and throat doctor who’s been working on community outreach around vaccines, says it’s better to follow up with people directly about getting their second shots. 

“We make it a concerted effort to call them, remind them, send them an email, shoot them a text message,” she said. 

Coker says she also emphasizes the need to come back for a second dose while administering first doses. 

“You gotta keep talking when you’re vaccinating,” she said. “You gotta get all those things in— the symptoms, and the need to come back. It has to be on the front end. You gotta look them in the eye. You gotta make sure they understand you, and you understand them. And you gotta be diligent with the follow up.”

The majority of vaccinations statewide are now being done at pharmacies. You can find other places where doses are available on the state’s website. Remember to bring your vaccine card when going for a second dose.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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