DEPUTY chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam has defended the plan to delay giving vulnerable people second doses of coronavirus vaccines — saying it will save more lives.
Those receiving either the Oxford AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine in the UK are not guaranteed a follow-up shot within weeks as first planned.
Pfizer had said there was no evidence to support scrapping its instructions for the jab, while some experts have accused officials of taking a ‘huge gamble’ with the plan, which has not been tested in a clinical trial.
But Prof Van-Tam said the benefits of a second dose within 12 weeks instead of 21 days outweigh the risks.
He said regulators believed the Pfizer vaccine would be 89 per cent effective 15 to 21 days after the first dose was received and it was ‘not really possible that this would have declined by much’ in 12 weeks.
Writing in The Mail On Sunday, he added: ‘If a family has two elderly grandparents and there are two vaccines available, it is better to give both 89 per cent protection than to give one 95 per cent protection with two quick doses, and the other grandparent no protection at all.
‘The virus is unfortunately spreading fast, and this is a race against time.’ However experts said the level and length of immunity after one dose was still uncertain. Pfizer said last week: ‘There is no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days.’
Dr Vinesh Patel, of the Doctors’ Association UK, said the dosing change ‘has been communicated poorly and represents an attempt to stem public health failings’.