The UK will prioritise giving more people the first dose of the CCP virus vaccine over ensuring people receive the second dose, according to new advice published on Wednesday.
“Evidence from Phase 3 trials indicate high levels of protection against serious disease and death from around 2 weeks after the first dose,” the JCVI said.
Therefore, “the committee recommends that vaccinating more people with the first dose is prioritised above offering others their second dose.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 chair for JCVI, said that this is to maximise the benefits in the current situation and save more lives.
The committee said that both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are “acceptably safe and effective,” and that “high levels of protection are obtained after the first dose of vaccine.”
According to the JCVI, the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be offered between three and 12 weeks after the first dose, and the second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be offered between four and 12 weeks after the first dose.
The committee doesn’t recommend skipping the second dose, as it “may be important for longer lasting protection,” but it says that “exact durations of protection are currently unknown.”
The UK’s four chief medical officers said they agreed with the JCVI’s recommendation.
“Based on JCVI’s expert advice, it is our joint clinical advice that delivery plans should prioritise delivering first vaccine doses to as many people on the JCVI Phase 1 priority list in the shortest possible time frame,” the chief medical officers said in a joint statement.
“Operationally this will mean that second doses of both vaccines will be administered towards the end of the recommended vaccine dosing schedule of 12 weeks.”
Responding to the news, Jonathan Stoye, group leader of the Retrovirus-Host Interactions Laboratory at The Francis Crick Institute, said there were still a number of questions to answer about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which was how the 40 million people in the government’s plan were to receive their vaccinations on schedule.
“Unless a vaccination rate of over 3 million a week can be achieved and assuming a maximum interval of 12 weeks before shots, this will inevitably mean that some people will be expecting their second shot before others have received their first. Will this give rise to tensions?” he said.
On Dec. 14, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that a new variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus was identified in England, and it was associated with spikes in case numbers in certain areas.
On Dec. 19, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, confirmed that the new strain does spread more quickly.
Large swaths of England have subsequently been put under tier four restrictions, where residents are told to stay at home unless they have a “reasonable excuse” to leave their houses.