The deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said that delaying a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine might give stronger protection in the long term.
Professor Anthony Harnden said: “We carefully examined the data from the Pfizer study and concluded that there was no real evidence that a second dose gave you substantially longer and better protection.
“We do believe you should have a second dose but we do believe that that can be delayed.”
Speaking to Sky’s Sophie Ridge On Sunday, Prof Harnden cited data from a study of the Moderna vaccine – which uses a similar technology to the Pfizer vaccine – which showed 1,000 people had 90% immunity two months after receiving one dose.
He added: “If you look at the AstraZeneca data – which I accept is a different technology – it may be that the longer you leave the second dose the better protection you have.
“Hopefully not only will this strategy get more people immunised and protect the vulnerable elderly and save thousands and thousands of lives, it may in the end give protection to the population as a whole.”
Prof Harnden has said JCVI is examining data from Israel indicating that immunity after a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine could be as low as 33%.
He said: “The Israeli data is preliminary data, it does involve PCR testing which is of course asymptomatic cases as well as symptomatic cases.
“They have not followed up for more than three weeks and the statistical methods they used are not clear.
“We will be looking at this in detail but at the moment our clear steer is the delayed second dose strategy is going to save many lives nationally.”
He predicted there would be a sharp fall-off in hospitalisations and deaths a few weeks after the first four priority groups have been offered their first dose of the vaccine.
“I am confident the Government has secured enough vaccine and provided the manufacturers can keep up with the orders, then we will see good supply.”