Americans who get their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at a location participating in the federal pharmacy program can get their second dose at a different location, a White House official said Tuesday.
The federal pharmacy program includes chains like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart and accounts for tens of thousands of locations across the country administering vaccines.
On Tuesday, White House COVID-19 Advisor Andy Slavitt said that participating pharmacies would not require proof of residency for the shot, mainly in an effort to allow college students to get their second dose in their home state if they get the first at school.
“College students lead lives that make physical isolation somehow a little more challenging. I say this with the knowledge of having one,” Slavitt said. “We are very supportive states in their effort to improve at this and make it even easier for their students to get their shots.”
But for any adult wanting to get the vaccine, Slavitt said that “most pharmacies” administering shots would give people a second dose, regardless of where they got their first one.
“Seems like a good opportunity to remind you to get your second shot if it's your time,” Slavitt added.
The announcement came after data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through April 9 showed that nearly 8% of people — or about five million — missed their second shot, up from 3.4% in the CDC’s March report.
A CDC spokesperson noted one limitation of the data: a person’s doses may not have been linked together if they got them at different locations.
“For example, if a person received their first dose at a clinic run by the state and second dose from a tribal health clinic, they might not be linked and it could look like they missed the second dose,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Both CVS and Walgreens confirmed to Spectrum News that they allow people to get their second shot at any pharmacy location, no matter where they got the first.
“We have found that there are instances when patients may seek locations elsewhere within a particular state and outside of their local zip code that are more convenient to schedule an appointment,” said Joseph Goode, a spokesperson for CVS, in a statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN it’s typical for a small percentage of people to miss their second dose when they get a two-shot vaccine.
"I'd like it to be a 0%," he said. "But I'm not surprised that there are some people who do that."
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown to be more than 90% effective in the real world after both doses.
Some data suggest that one dose can be up to 80% effective, but studies haven’t specifically looked at the strength of only one shot, since that’s not how the vaccines were designed and tested in clinical trials.
“Ensuring second dose completion of the vaccine is critical in helping to protect people from COVID-19,” a CDC spokesperson said.
Some pharmacies are sending out reminders to patients for their follow-up shot.
“For those patients who received their first dose with Walgreens, if they haven’t received their second dose, we will be reaching out to ensure that they have scheduled an appointment and are vaccinated,” a spokesperson said.
As of Tuesday, more than half of U.S. adults — or about 141 million people — have gotten at least one shot of the vaccine, according to CDC data. Nearly 30% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated.