Pharmaceutical experts in the U.S. and Europe are warning governments not to postpone the second COVID-19 shots, as this could reduce the efficacy of the drugs. The U.K.’s decision to delay giving the second shot of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, as well as other approved vaccines, was reluctantly approved by British healthcare experts. The government chose to postpone giving the second dose for 12 weeks, rather than the recommended 3 weeks, in order to vaccinate more people.
The U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said in a statement that it was a “very difficult and finely balanced decision” to endorse the government move. But now pharmaceutical experts are warning that not following the vaccine protocol set down by clinical trials may make the drugs less effective and may trigger adverse events for which the vaccine’s developers cannot be held responsible, according to Market Watch.
The U.K. government is not the only faction to call for spacing out the doses of the vaccines. Even here in the U.S., some healthcare proponents say it makes sense to spend time and resources to administer the drug to more people initially, thereby granting them some degree of immunity.
While both Moderna and Pfizer say their vaccines require two doses several weeks apart to provide 95% immunity, Dr. Bob Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said on Twitter that he believes we should “turbocharge the process of getting a large chunk of the population at least partially protected.”
He says that a single shot of the vaccines provides 80% protection after a month and the second shot boosts efficacy to 95% along with the potential for longer term immunity. He added that delaying the second doses for a few months may not diminish the vaccines’ overall effectiveness.
According to CNBC, you need at least 70% of the population to be vaccinated or have natural antibodies to achieve the herd immunity that can contain the virus. Wachter is not alone in his thinking. In Ontario, Canada, the head of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination, retired General Rick Hillier, has suggested a similar measure and has asked Health Canada to look into the possibility of allowing Moderna’s two-dose vaccine to be given in a single shot to help protect people more quickly. Moderna’s vaccine also provides 80% immunity after the first dose.
“Maybe with the high efficiency that protects you with the first needle, it would be best for the entire population that we went with just a one-shot vaccination program,” he said.
However, the one-shot theory may backfire. According to the New York Post, a British emergency room nurse tested positive for COVID-19 just a month after he received his first shot. David Longden’s second vaccine was canceled by the new government policy and he began feeling sick two days later. He slammed the government’s decision to delay the follow-up dose, saying that it is needed to protect frontline workers.
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