NEW YORK - The United States is now averaging more than 3 million vaccine shots every day. Even as the program is accelerating, new cases are stubbornly still on the rise.
Side effects coming with the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have increased so-called vaccine hesitancy. Some people are even hoping to get away with just one shot. But the National Institutes of Health is warning against stopping at one dose.
"When you just leave it at one dose, the question is, how long does it last?" Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, said. "And when you're dealing with variants, you're in a tenuous zone."
Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the vaccine education center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, urges people to get both shots despite the side effects associated with the second dose.
"Although it's true the second dose can cause fatigue and fever and headache and muscle ache, it is a small price to pay to be protected against this disease for a more durable or longer length period of time," Offit said.
He said that the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that both doses offer the best protection against COVID-19.
"Vaccines are the only way out of this pandemic and we are not going to get out of this pandemic unless we have at least 80% population immunity," Offit said. "You owe it to yourself and everyone you come in contact with to get this vaccine."
Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the CEO of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, also urges people not to be afraid of the mild side effects involving the second dose.
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"You are seeing rising cases across the country now but very notably in New York City and in New Jersey because folks are more relaxed with restrictions and also because we have a largely unvaccinated population — only a little over 20%," Elnahal said. "So all of that increases risk to you and to your loved ones."
The race to vaccinate a majority of Americans is intensifying with the rise of new variants. Health officials are warning that the U.S. is on the threshold of the fourth surge of this deadly virus.