Clinicians say delaying the second vaccine dose for 12 weeks is not justified by the science (Picture: PA/Reuters)
Leading doctors are demanding the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech coronavirus vaccine is halved to six weeks.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned how delaying the second jab for 12 weeks is not justified by the science.
Manufacturers of the vaccine advise the second dose should be given three to four weeks after the first.
The World Health Organisation have recommended that the second jab should only be delayed in ‘exceptional circumstances’, to a maximum of six weeks.
No other country in the world is said to have adopted the same strategy as Britain – sparking fears it could be the wrong course of action.
Now the BMA has written a letter to England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, urging the government to follow the advice of the WHO and manufacturers.
BMA council chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, today said the WHO guidance on extending the gap between doses had been ‘stretched far too much’.
People queue to enter Lord’s Cricket Ground in London to receive the coronavirus vaccine (Picture: REUTERS)
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Most nations in the world are facing challenges similar to the UK in having limited vaccine supply and also wanting to protect their population maximally.
‘No other nation has adopted the UK’s approach. We think the flexibility that the WHO offers of extending to 42 days is being stretched far too much to go from six weeks right through to 12 weeks.
‘Obviously the protection will not vanish after six weeks but what we do not know is what level of protection will be offered. We should not be extrapolating data where we don’t have it.
‘I do understand the trade-off and the rationale but if that was the right thing to do then we would see other nations following suit.’
The Government believes it is essential to protect as many people as possible to stop the virus ‘getting the upper hand’ (Picture: PA/Reuters)
But the Government is resisting calls to slash the delay between doses.
PHE medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said it is essential to protect as many people as possible to prevent the virus getting ‘the upper hand’.
She said the decision to extend the gap had been taken on ‘public health and scientific advice’ in a bid to give some protection to as many people as possible.
Dr Doyle told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The more people that are protected against this virus, the less opportunity it has to get the upper hand. Protecting more people is the right thing to do.’
Scientists were ‘surprised’ after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Kent Covid variant was ‘linked to higher mortality’ (Picture: PA)
Hitting back at criticism, Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Government is following ‘very clear advice’ from experts and that the Pfizer jab is ‘fine’ as long as the second dose is given within 12 weeks.
He added: ‘As a result of that we are ensuring millions more people can get the first jab and a high level of protection that that provides as quickly as possible.’
More work is needed to establish whether the new Covid variant of which emerged in Kent last year is more deadly than the original strain.
Boris Johnson warned at a Downing Street press briefing last night that the new variant could be linked to a ‘higher degree of mortality’.
But scientists described their ‘surprise’ at the Prime Minister’s grave warnings – because they are ‘only around 50%’ sure it is more deadly.
Dr Doyle said there was ‘very early evidence’ – but insisted it is ‘far too early to say this will actually happen.’
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