TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Doctors have warned that you are not sufficiently protected with a single dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and now, medical professionals tell 8 On Your Side that’s especially true in the Tampa Bay area due to the role of variants.

If you’re living in the Tampa Bay area and get COVID-19, you’re most likely infected with a variant. That’s what doctors say is circulating in our community right now.

Simply stated, public health experts say mounting evidence shows to best fight the variants, you need both shots.

This information comes as millions across the country skip the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million Americans have skipped the second dose. That’s nearly 8% of those who got an initial shot of Pfizer or Moderna.

Public health experts across the country, including in the Tampa Bay area, are concerned.

“When we look at the Hillsborough County data, it is about 10% – roughly – of individuals that have yet to return for that second dose of the vaccine,” Chief Epidemiologist Michael Wiese from the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County said. “We’re seeing them not making those appointments or not showing up if they’ve made appointments.”

On average, there are about 470 new COVID-19 cases a day in Hillsborough County – an infection rate that’s been steady since January.

“Overall, the continued number of cases and the decreasing interest that we’re seeing in people getting the vaccine or coming back for their second dose is concerning,” said Mr. Wiese.

Still, many residents are skipping the second dose because they fear side effects or think they’re sufficiently protected with just one shot.

According to Dr. John Greene, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Moffitt, experts believe you have anywhere from 50% to 80% protection against the virus after the first dose of the vaccine.

8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked why the second shot is necessary if you have up to 80% protection with the first shot.

“If you want the protection that you need against the variants, which are most common in the community,” said Dr. Greene. “You need to get the second shot so that your quantity of antibodies will be higher or, in other words, your immune system will be strong enough to battle these variants.”

A single shot triggers a weaker immune response. Dr. Greene says skipping the second dose will make you more susceptible to the variants.

Right now, Florida has one of the highest case counts of the variants. Each day, we’re seeing more and more cases of the more contagious strain.

The stakes are high because there’s only one vaccine authorized as a single shot. Although the pause on Johnson and Johnson has now lifted after those extremely rare clotting cases, trust in that vaccine is still low.