Covid: England’s deputy chief medical officer defends plan to delay vaccine second doses to accelerate rollout

Senior adviser says patients get ‘almost complete protection’ from first dose of Pfizer jab 

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 03 January 2021 18:16
Comments
MHRA Chief Executive says no corners cut in approval of Oxford vaccine

England’s deputy chief medical officer has defended a controversial policy to delay giving second doses of coronavirus vaccines in order to give more first jabs to vulnerable people.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who advised the government’s vaccine taskforce, argued that data showed patients got “almost complete protection” from their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and could wait for their second jab.

Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will now take place within 12 weeks of the first jab rather than within the 21 days recommended by the manufacturer, with a similar policy of delaying the second jab applying to the recently-approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Professor Van-Tam’s defence of the policy came as the NHS prepared to roll out the Oxford vaccine on Monday, with some 530,000 doses set to be available in the coming days.

Writing for The Mail on Sunday, he said analysis from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) showed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 89 per cent effective against Covid-19 in the period of 15 to 21 days after the first dose.

The medical officer argued that it appeared unlikely that such protection would decline severely in the 12 weeks after the jab.

“The evidence clearly shows vaccinated individuals get almost complete protection after the first dose,” Professor Van-Tam said.

“Simply put, every time we vaccinate someone a second time, we are not vaccinating someone else for the first time.

“It means we are missing an opportunity to greatly reduce the chances of the most vulnerable people getting severely ill from Covid-19.”

He added: “If a family has two elderly grandparents and there are two vaccines available, it is better to give both 89 per cent than to give one 95 per cent protection with two quick doses, and the other grandparent no protection at all.”

The plan to delay second doses was criticised on Thursday by the British Medical Association (BMA), which said it was “unreasonable and totally unfair” to ask healthcare workers to reschedule appointments already in place.

It also warned that the plan would cause “huge logistical problems” for GPs and vaccination centres with rebooking appointments for elderly or vulnerable patients.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in