Delaying second COVID-19 vaccine dose could result in quicker herd immunity, health expert says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The quickest way to herd immunity might be to delay the second dose, according to Orange County’s top medical expert.

Because the county has such a limited supply right now, Dr. Raul Pino said it would be better to spread out the first dose, since only so many people can be vaccinated at the convention center per day.

To reach herd immunity for COVID-19, about 79% of the community must be vaccinated. So far, about 3% has been. And if you add those who have been infected with the coronavirus, the county is around 9%; but we don’t know how long that natural immunity lasts.

READ: Florida reports almost 14,900 new COVID-19 cases, 161 deaths since yesterday

Pino said we are still a very long way away from returning to normal.

“As a pandemic environment, what you want is to immunize as many people as possible as fast as possible,” he said.

That’s why Pino said it’s better to have more people with some immunity than only some people with full immunity, meaning he believes the county should use the vaccines earmarked for people’s second dose to give others their first dose instead.

READ: Disneyland to become COVID-19 vaccine ‘super site’

“If we were to vaccinate just the first dosage and move forward, we may be able to cover a larger territory,” Pino said.

He said the second dose is still important, but thinks people can wait longer than the minimum 21 days for Pfizer or 28 days for Moderna.

Pino said he wants the state to let him make that change, but right now he doesn’t have that authority.

READ: Sanford firefighter charged for alleged participation in Capitol riot

However, internal medicine specialist Dr. Aftab Khan said he is “totally against it.”

“We have plenty of vaccines available,” he said.

He said delaying the second dose could be dangerous.

READ: Lake County COVID-19 vaccine appointments fill up in 15 minutes

“We don’t know if it’s going to be safe or effective,” Khan said.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.