Health experts have conditionally backed the U.K.’s decision to delay administering a second dose of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, warning that the need to suppress the new coronavirus strain “cannot be overstated.” On December 30, 2020, following MHRA approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, the four UK Chief Medical Officers, based on a recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), issued clinical advice to prioritize maximum uptake of a single dose of either the Oxford AstraZeneca or the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, contradicting previous advice that a second dose should be administered three weeks after the first to be confident of achieving sustained high level protection.
While there are sound theoretical and empirical public health reasons to support the decision to delay a second dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, including evidence from trial data that a delayed second dose may be more effective, considerable concerns have been raised about a delay in administering a second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
Independent SAGE recognizes that there are valid concerns and, in normal circumstances, would argue for continuation of the earlier plans to administer two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine 21 days apart. However, these are not normal circumstances and there are other public health considerations. The new variant of the virus is substantially more transmissible than earlier variants, by 40-80%. The urgency of concerted and effective action to surpass the new variant cannot be overstated.
Yes, the saga continues and there will continue to be debate over what path to take.
At the end of the day, follow the recommendations by the health experts, stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!