- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that the government should give people one injection of COVID-19 vaccine instead of two, so people can be immunized more quickly to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
- One dose has an efficacy rate of 91%. The second dose increases the rate to 95%.
- Professor David Salisbury, former head of immunization at the British Ministry of Health, supported the idea: “You only get 4% [extra protection] for giving a second dose, ”he said.
- Some scientists have said Blair’s idea is too risky, given minimal research data on how well single-dose vaccines work.
- The UK government is considering a single dose, an unnamed source told The Telegraph.
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The British government is negotiating with the British drug regulator after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on the government to give everyone one injection of the vaccine instead of the recommended two doses, according to The Telegraph.
The shooting of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer vaccine is currently licensed for use in the UK, US, Canada and Europe. Administration in two doses, 21 days apart, is legally approved.
However, there is a debate about whether it would be more effective to perform the injection with one dose first and then take care of the second recommended dose later.
The logistics of giving all two doses in a row are daunting:
- It takes time to set priorities: All countries had to determine who would get it first. There are also logistical challenges – for example, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at very cold temperatures. Seven hundred and forty thousand people were injected with the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and more than 2.4 million people were immunized worldwide, our world states in data on Wednesday.
- It takes months: The current UK strategy, developed with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, puts in the first place those at greatest risk of severe COVID-19 – the elderly and health professionals. But it could be months before the entire population is immunized.
To speed up the process, Blair said that instead of giving people two injections, all available vaccines should be used to immunize people with the first dose, instead of people already being immunized with the second. (His proposal is part of a multi-part plan he has drawn up, which also encourages the UK government to prepare controversial health passports.)
Pfizer said the vaccine was 95% effective in protecting against COVID-19, 28 days after the first dose, when two doses were given in the trials.
But Professor David Salisbury, a former head of immunization at the Ministry of Health – speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday – noted that a single dose can also be very effective.
“If you give one dose, you get 91% [protection]. You give two doses and you get 95%. You only get 4% for giving a second dose, ”Salisbury explained.
“In the current circumstances, I would strongly urge you to use as many first doses as possible for at-risk groups and only after you have done all this will you come back with other doses,” he added.
However, he acknowledged that the same principles did not apply to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine – which could be approved immediately in the UK – because the effectiveness of the two doses was lower, at 60%.
Too risky? Or good reason?
Oxford University professor Peter Horby, the UK government’s advisory group on new and new respiratory threats – the chairman of NERVTAG – told the Commons selection committee on Wednesday that you can’t assume one dose is as good as two doses. Current data favor two doses. He also said we don’t know how much of the population needs to be immunized with a single dose to reduce the spread of the virus.
Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London and a member of NERVTAG, said the idea was interesting but “too risky”.
“For change to happen at this point, a lot more analysis of clinical trial data would have to be seen,” Barclay said.
However, there are experts who see some benefits to Blair’s plan. According to the British government and regulator, “live talks” are now taking place, writes The Telegraph.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, told the Telegraph on Wednesday that the move would go against common practice, but it made “good sense”, but it was not clear how long immunity would last if people were given only one dose.
“Immunologically, it makes sense that a highly effective vaccine might need only one dose, but the durability of protection is unpredictable,” Openshaw said.
“Later, an amplifier could be needed to improve responses and make them last longer,” he added.