Doctors have issued a warning to ministers and health officials over second doses of coronavirus vaccine.
They say patients given their first dose have not received an assurance that all will get a second jab of the same vaccine after 12 weeks and that it is ‘completely unacceptable’ to ignore the need for one.
Scientists advising the Government decided that first jabs should be prioritised, to provide protection to greater numbers, and that patients should wait up to 12 weeks for their second dose instead of three.
Doctors have warned the government over the proposed 12-week waiting time for the second dose of the vaccine
The Doctors’ Association UK, which represents front-line doctors, said a key concern is ‘the lack of assurance that all patients will receive a second dose at 12 weeks, the same type [of vaccine] as the first’.
They added: ‘We must be clear that it is completely unacceptable to ignore the need for a second vaccination.
‘All studies confirm the need for this to provide reliable and lasting immunity.’
The association’s issued its warning in a letter to officials including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.
Dr Kaveri Jalundhwala, a GP trainee and association committee member, said: ‘We, in particular, were concerned about the possibility of insufficient supply in the future meaning that some people might not get their second dose, or that it might be of a different vaccine leading to an unproven mixing of vaccines.
‘This, in our view, is immoral, unevidenced and unacceptable. We must not compromise our route out of the pandemic.’
The growing controversy over the timing of second doses follows reports from Israel that the first jab of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may offer relatively low levels of protection.
The Clalit Health Fund recorded only a 33 per cent fall in the percentage testing positive from 14 days after their first dose, compared with unvaccinated people. It is not clear how that figure was worked out.
The Department of Health said: ‘The decision to change vaccine dosage intervals followed a thorough review of the data available, which showed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 89 per cent effective in protection against Covid between 15 to 21 days after the first dose.’
200 Jabs Every Minute
By Kate Pickles and Eleanor Hayward
The UK has reached two million vaccines in a week as the rollout reaches a rate of 200 jabs a minute – despite many GPs warning of shortages.
Figures released last night showed that a record 363,508 people received the first dose of the vaccine on Wednesday – with more than five million doses given to 4.9million people in total.
It means some 2,054,996 people have been given their first jab over the last seven days, in line with the government target to offer the jab to the 15million most at risk by the middle of February.
Yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the public should take comfort from the programme rolling out ‘200 vaccinations every minute’ and that the UK is making ‘good progress’ towards its target for protecting the most vulnerable.
Some 2,054,996 people have been given their first jab over the last seven days with a a record 363,508 people received the first dose of the vaccine on Wednesday
As of yesterday, 63 per cent of elderly care home residents had received the jab, he said, insisting that they will all be inoculated by the end of the month.
Mr Hancock said the ‘rate-limiting step’ was the supply of the vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
He added: ‘Everyone is working as fast as they can … the NHS is chomping at the bit to have more supply in order to deliver it.’ But Mr Hancock also warned that the country was ‘in the midst of one of the toughest periods of this pandemic’.
He told the Commons: ‘As we endure these dark days and the restrictions we must all follow to save lives, we know that we have a way out, which is our vaccination programme and thanks to the hard work of so many people we now have an immense infrastructure in place that day by day is protecting the most vulnerable and giving hope to us all.’
Speaking before the latest figures were released, he added: ‘I’m glad to report to the House we now have given over five million doses of vaccine across the UK to 4.6million people, making good progress towards our goal of offering everyone in priority groups one to four their first dose by February 15.’
Despite the success of the vaccine roll out so far, people have expressed concerns the progress could stall
There are fears the progress made this week could stall, with vaccine supplies diverted to those areas which have fallen behind.
The decision to start offering vaccines to over-70s in areas with high uptake has already caused concern for many of those over-80s still waiting to hear, and triggered accusations of a postcode lottery.
Selaine Saxby, the Tory MP for North Devon, told Mr Hancock, who was appearing virtually: ‘My inbox is overflowing with elderly residents desperately worried that despite being over 80, 90 and even 100, they have still heard nothing from their GP. With other parts of the UK currently vaccinating those significantly younger, what reassurance can you give to my constituents?’
Mr Hancock insisted in response: ‘We will get there’, and reiterated the goal to offer a vaccine to all priority groups by mid-February.
It also emerged last night that officials are looking to halve supplies to GPs in the North East and Yorkshire next week to send them elsewhere.
The suggested reduction in deliveries to the region indicates national supply from manufacturers will remain constrained next week.
Sources suggested it is one of seven English NHS regions that will see doses cut to about 100,000 next week for its centres run by GPs, down from about 200,000 this week, the Health Service Journal reported.
The report was met with frustration because many GPs are warning they are still not getting the supplies they need to keep up with demand and capacity.
Helen Salisbury, who runs a GP practice in Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What I’m hearing more and more is we’re ready, we just don’t have the vaccine. It is a problem with supply.
‘It’s not that we order and we get what we ask for – we get what we’re given. There’s lots of practices ready to go, but we don’t have the supply.’
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘Vaccine allocations have prioritised areas for supply depending on the number of unvaccinated people in priority cohorts.
‘This ensures we reach those most at risk across the country as far as possible, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.’