Health experts debate delaying second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Health experts debate delaying second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

BOSTON — Several health experts in the U.S. are recommending delaying second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to offer a wider group of people with initial protections from the first shot.

The debate stems from growing frustrations that so few Americans have received first doses coupled with concerns about a new and fast-spreading strain of the virus.

>>>MORE: New vaccination distribution plan being rolled out in Mass.

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Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, shared their thoughts in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post.

“Until recently, we supported the strict vaccine regimen, requiring two doses within a month,” it states. “But as Mike Tyson famously said, ‘Everybody has a plan until they’ve been punched in the mouth.’ When it comes to COVID-19 we’re being punched in the mouth over and over again. It’s time to change the plan; namely, we should give people a single vaccination now and defer their second shot until more doses of vaccine become available.”

In both trials of the approved vaccines in the U.S., by the time of the second shot, the first was already 80-to-90% effective in preventing COVID-19 cases.

The United Kingdom is already opting to delay the second doses of the vaccine to inoculate more people with the first dose, and several other European countries are indicating they’ll be doing the same.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he is not in favor of delaying the second dose of the vaccine, pointing out that it is not supported in the data gathered in clinical trials.

The opinion piece written by Dr. Jha and Dr. Wachter compares the benefits versus the unknowns.

“In a perfect world, there would be no trade-offs. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we don’t live in a perfect world. Between 50,000 and 100,000 Americans will die of COVID-19 this month alone. Giving 100 million people — particularly those at high risk — a single shot that is 80-to-90% effective will save far more lives than giving 50 million people two shots that are 95% effective. It’s what we should do.”

The FDA published an announcement about dosing schedules concerning the COVID-19 vaccines.

We have been following the discussions and news reports about reducing the number of doses, extending the length of time between doses, changing the dose (half-dose), or mixing and matching vaccines in order to immunize more people against COVID-19. These are all reasonable questions to consider and evaluate in clinical trials. However, at this time, suggesting changes to the FDA-authorized dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence. Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from COVID-19.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The full statement can be read here.

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