A GP has claimed delaying second doses of the Pfizer jab beyond three weeks is an ‘unregulated and unlicensed trial’ – but a Government vaccine expert insisted doing so could save ‘thousands of lives’.
Dr Rosie Shire, a member of the Doctors’ Association UK, raised concerns that studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine only show two doses three weeks apart to deliver 90 per cent immunity.
But Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there is ‘no real evidence’ that a quicker follow-up dose was more effective.
To accelerate the rollout of the vaccine, the Government has opted to extend the gap between the first and second jab to 12 weeks to allow it to be administered to a greater number of people.
But the moved has proved controversial, with Matt Hancock forced to defend the delay, calling it ‘essential’ to save more lives more quickly.
Dr Shire said: ‘What really concerns us is we don’t know what happens if you don’t give that second dose of vaccination after three weeks.
‘The fact is that people are being vaccinated now and being put into what is effectively an unregulated unlicensed trial, whereby they’re receiving this vaccination on the understanding that they don’t know what’s going on.’
The GP said that it was ‘really hard’ to explain to people they were vaccinating with the Pfizer vaccination that they would get ‘some immunity’ but that after three weeks it was unclear how much.
She added that it was difficult to obtain ‘informed consent’ from patients when doctors did not have the full information to give to them.
But Professor Harnden said the extended gap may provide better protection in the long run.
He said: ‘We do believe you should have a second dose but we do believe that that can be delayed.’
Dr Rosie Shire, of the Doctors’ Association UK, raised concerns studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine only show two doses three weeks apart to deliver 90 per cent immunity
Prof Harden cited data from a study of the Moderna vaccine – which uses a similar technology to the Pfizer vaccine – which showed 1,000 people had 90 per cent immunity two months after receiving one dose.
‘If you look at the AstraZeneca data – which I accept is a different technology – it may be that the longer you leave the second dose the better protection you have,’ he said.
‘Hopefully not only will this strategy get more people immunised and protect the vulnerable elderly and save thousands and thousands of lives, it may in the end give protection to the population as a whole.’
But Professor Anthony Harnden (pictured), deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there is ‘no real evidence’ that a quicker follow-up dose was more effective
Earlier today, when asked about the gap between doses, Mr Hancock told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘We do know this policy is going to save lives.
‘So long as there is decent efficacy after the first dose, and we have a high degree of confidence that that’s the case, then in a situation where there is a limited supply… you want to get as many people to have as much protection as possible as quickly as possible.
‘If you have grandparents who are both in their 70s or 80s you obviously would want each of them to have one dose when you know that one dose is effective, rather than one to have the full two doses and one to have no protection at all.’
Yesterday Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told colleagues The Guardian’s report that only a third of people who have received one injection were protected was ‘total nonsense’ which could threaten the uptake of the jab.
The newspaper quoted ‘Israeli experts’ but No 10’s vaccine advisers say the real figure is 89 per cent, starting 14 days after the first jab.
It was reported yesterday that a single shot of the Pfizer vaccine had led to a ‘major presence’ of antibodies in 91 per cent of doctors and nurses who received it in Israel within 21 days.
Professor Harnden (pictured) said the extended gap may provide better protection in the long run
Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the Government’s decision to delay the time between vaccine doses
The report quoted Israeli Covid commissioner Professor Nachman Ash as saying that a single dose of Pfizer appeared ‘less effective than we had thought’, once cases of asymptomatic infection were included, although those who had received their second dose had a six- to 12-fold increase in antibodies.
Later in the week, the paper reported that Israel’s health ministry had ‘moved to row back on comments’ by Professor Ash’s suggestion that single doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine had not given as much protection against the disease as had been hoped.
It quoted the Israeli Ministry of Health as saying that the ‘full protective impact of the vaccine’ had not yet been seen.
The Guardian said last night that it had reported both Professor Ash’s ‘initial comments’ and subsequent comments from Israel’s health ministry: ‘The Guardian’s independent readers’ editor has not received any complaints about either article.’