A pharmacist dilutes the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as he prepares it for administration to staff and residents at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads, a senior community in Falls Church, Virginia, on December 30, 2020.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – Health experts have condemned the UK’s decision to delay the administration of a second dose of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, warning that the need to suppress the new strain of coronavirus “cannot be overstated “.
Shortly after the UK announced that the second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech jab, in addition to the newly approved Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, will now be given up to 12 weeks after the first dose.
The National Health Service had previously planned to give a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine three weeks after the first to ensure a high level of protection against the virus.
The UK’s Independent Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) said in a statement released on Sunday that it was “a very difficult and balanced decision” but was in favor of the UK government’s move to cover as high a proportion of the population as possible.
However, the change in policy would have to go hand in hand with several other measures. These included: publishing a detailed and compelling strategy to scale up vaccination, developing a rigorous assessment process, real-time assessment of ongoing virus variation, and the need to restrict movement to and from the UK to the rest of the world.
SAGE is made up of health professionals and scientists and is jointly managed by the UK Government’s Scientific Advisor and Medical Director.
Meghana Pandit, Chief Medical Officer of the NHS Trust, Oxford University, right, speaks to Trevor Cowlett, 88, before receiving the Oxford University AstraZeneca Plc and Covid-19 vaccine at Churchill Hospital in Oxford, UK on Monday. January 4, 2021. UK regulators approved the shot last week, giving it its first approval anywhere in the world.
Steve Parsons | PA wire | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The comments come despite the British Medical Association criticizing the UK’s decision to postpone the second dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. It described the move as “grossly unfair” to thousands of high-risk patients in England.
“The BMA is of the opinion that the existing commitment of the NHS and local doctors to these patients should be respected. If the GPs decide to keep these booked appointments in January, the BMA will support them,” said Dr. Richard Vautre, Chairman of the BMA GP Committee. said in a statement on December 31.
In response to these concerns, the SAGE Committee said, “Under normal circumstances, we would advocate continuing our previous plans of administering two doses of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine 21 days apart. However, these are not normal circumstances and it is are other important public health considerations. “
The German Ministry of Health asked an independent vaccination commission for advice on Monday whether it should follow in the UK’s footsteps.
A ministry spokesman confirmed to CNBC that the federal government had asked the Robert Koch Institute’s Standing Committee on Vaccination if the country should delay a second vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine. “Such a decision requires scientific consideration,” they added.
“Hard” measures required
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday the government could soon announce stricter public health measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
Johnson said “tough” measures could come for weeks. Currently, more than three quarters of the UK population is in Tier 4 – the highest level of restrictions.
The opposition Labor Party said the government must impose a national lockdown within 24 hours and warned the virus was “clearly out of control”.
The UK recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid-19 infections for the sixth consecutive year on Sunday. The country continues to fight a new strain of the virus that is spreading faster.
To date, the UK has reported more than 2.6 million coronavirus cases with 75,137 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“It is now clear that the new variant of the virus that appears to have surfaced in south-east England is 40-80% significantly more transmissible than previous variants,” SAGE said in a Jan. 3 statement.
“It is also clear that the current Tier 4 restrictions cannot contain their spread even if schools and universities are closed.”
“The pandemic is now out of control and the NHS is struggling with some hospitals being forced to cease non-COVID activity. The NHS is no longer protected. For these reasons, there is a strong case for maximizing population coverage with at least one dose of vaccine although this requires a change in the dosage regimen, “added the group.