Doctors have written to ministers expressing severe concerns about the coronavirus vaccine schedule, warning that patients are at risk if they do not receive a timely second dose.
In a letter sent to the health secretary, the minister in charge of vaccines and the head of the NHS, doctors criticised the lack of guidance around the decision to change the period between doses of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine from three weeks to 12 weeks.
Heads of the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), which represents frontline medics, have demanded immediate explanations of what steps are being taken to keep track of patients who have had the first dose because of fears that the follow-up could be missed.
“We must be clear that it is completely unacceptable to ignore the need for a second vaccination,” they said. “All studies confirm the need for this to provide reliable and lasting immunity. It must be noted that there is currently no data around the reliability of the immune response if vaccines are interchanged.”
The letter was sent on Monday to Matt Hancock, Nadhim Zahawi, Sir Simon Stevens, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and other figures responsible for the UK’s mass vaccination programme. DAUK has not yet received a reply.
“We understand the rationale for the delay in scheduling the Pfizer-Biontech second dosing from three to 12 weeks. The concerns arise from decisions being made without acknowledging the consequences of enacting them on the front line,” the doctors wrote.
“We are concerned that there are no clear plans to follow up and monitor the immunity of these patients, to ensure the 12-week booster will be adequate, given that this schedule goes against the advice of both the manufacturer and WHO.”
They called for a government guarantee that all patients will be given their second immunisations by 12 weeks “at the absolute latest” with the same brand of vaccine they initially received.
Both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines require two jabs, which the manufacturers say should be had three or four weeks apart. Britain has increased the gap to up to 12 weeks to ensure that more vulnerable people get at least some protection over the winter, despite warnings from the companies that there is little data to justify the change.
Ministers followed guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that the Pfizer vaccine is 89 per cent effective after one dose, from a study of people who received their second dose within three to four weeks. Analysis from Israel suggests that the effectiveness of a single dose may be as low as 33 per cent.
Doubt was cast on whether everyone would be given a second dose when Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, refused this week to guarantee that all people who had received a first dose would get a second within 12 weeks. He instead said the government was “aiming for” everyone to get a second jab.
Read the full article here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/delaying-second-covid-vaccine-dose-puts-patients-at-risk-insist-doctors-m53jjg7bx