A health worker prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif., Thursday, January 21, 2021. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)
According to a major UK medical group, the UK government should “urgently review” its decision to give people a second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine up to 12 weeks after the first, rather than the shorter gap recommended by the manufacturer and manufacturers World health organization.
The UK, which has the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in Europe, passed the policy to give as many people as possible a first dose of vaccine as quickly as possible. So far, nearly 5.5 million people have received either a vaccine from US drug maker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, or a vaccine from British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
AstraZeneca believes a first dose of its vaccine will provide protection after 12 weeks, but Pfizer says it hasn’t tested the effectiveness of its sting after such a long hiatus.
The British Medical Association on Saturday called on the UK’s Chief Medical Officer to “urgently review the UK’s current position on second doses after 12 weeks”.
In a statement, the association said that “the medical profession has increasing concerns about the delay in the second dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine as the UK strategy is increasingly isolated from many other countries”.
“No other nation has adopted the British approach,” said Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, Chairman of the BMA Council, told the BBC.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference on coronavirus at 10 Downing Street in London on Friday 22nd January 2021. Johnson announced that the new variant of COVID-19, first discovered in the south of England, will be linked to could be a possible increase in the death rate. (Leon Neal / Pool via AP)
He said the WHO recommended that the second Pfizer vaccine be given up to six weeks after the first, but only “in exceptional cases.”
“I understand the compromise and the reasons, but if that were the right thing, we would see other nations follow suit,” said Nagpaul.
Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England, defended the decision as “an appropriate scientific balance based on both the care and protection of most people”.
Researchers in the UK have begun collecting blood samples from newly vaccinated people to look at how many antibodies they produce at different intervals from 3 weeks to 24 months to get an answer to the question of what is the best timing for the recordings .
Doctors’ concerns came a day after government medical advisors said there was evidence that a new variant of the virus, first identified in southeast England, posed a higher risk of death than the original strain.
Margaret Keating, 88, will receive the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Abercorn House Nursing Home in Hamilton, Scotland on Monday, December 14, 2020. (Russell Cheyne / PA via AP)
A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, January 8, 2021 at Queen Anne Healthcare, a qualified nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle. Pfizer has pledged to deliver up to 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to a World Health Organization-sponsored initiative to provide affordable vaccines to 92 poor, middle-income countries. The deal, announced on Friday January 22nd, will provide the footage for the program known as COVAX. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)
A health worker prepares the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, England on Wednesday January 20, 2021. Salisbury Cathedral opened for the second time as the venue for the Sarum South Primary Care Network’s local COVID-19 vaccination service. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
People sit and relax after receiving their Pfizer BioNTech vaccination at Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, England on Wednesday January 20, 2021. Salisbury Cathedral opened for the second time as the venue for the Sarum South Primary Care Network COVID-19 Local Vaccination Service. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference on coronavirus at 10 Downing Street in London on Friday 22nd January 2021. Johnson announced that the new variant of COVID-19, first discovered in the south of England, will be linked to could be an increase in the death rate. (Leon Neal / Pool via AP)
Senior scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said Friday that “there is evidence that there is an increased risk for those who have the new variant,” which is also more transmissible than the original virus. He said the new strain could be about 30% more deadly, but stressed that “the evidence is not yet strong” and more research is needed.
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