Many a colleague and healthcare worker who have contacted me regarding the delay of second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine feel totally let down by an unscientific and immoral decision. There is also a concern that many frontline vaccinators, who came forward on the basis that they would be protected by a second dose, now feel that they can’t continue in this role.
The mixed messaging and short notice from the Government has led to considerable concern, confusion and upset for healthcare workers and elderly, vulnerable patients. A doctor is rightly campaigning to challenge the decision of in court.
Israel’s Covid tsar, who, having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people, has warned that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine may be providing less protection than originally hoped. The study suggests the effectiveness of vaccine after a single dose is as low as 33%, rather than the 89% that had initially been suggested.
By contrast, those who had received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine had a six to 12-fold increase in antibodies.
Thanks to the commitment of healthcare workers, more than 4.2m people have received their first dose of the vaccine in effort to meet the Government’s target to vaccinate the first four priority groups by mid-February – equating to 13.9m people. It would need a rate of over 400,000 a day to reach that target. You need a confident, healthy workforce to achieve such a target.
Staff illness rates are significantly higher than usual, and confidence within the profession is certainly now very badly shaken by disregard to manufacturer’s and World Health Organisation’s recommendations to give the second dose within 21 to 28 days.
The ambitious vaccine rollout could suffer a severe knockdown if the chief medical officer refuses to see the reason and scientific evidence to reverse his decision of delaying the vaccine to 12 weeks.
The Government must learn lessons from its past failures on many counts, like the fiasco of ‘test, trace and isolate’ initiatives. Please stop gambling with the health of at-risk individuals including healthcare workers, and allow the second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be given between 21 and 28 days after the first.
After many Government misjudgements in the pandemic, primary care staff have come to the rescue, putting their heart and soul into vaccinating. Please protect them to protect the nation and allow their second doses immediately.
Science is not on the side of the delayed second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and Public Health England should revisit and reverse their decisions based on emerging scientific evidence.
Dr Kailash Chand OBE is a retired GP in Tameside