Call for evidence to justify 12 week delay between Pfizer/BioNTec vaccine doses

Covid-19 vaccination. Picture by the Welsh Government.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister, Rhun ap Iorwerth, has called on the Welsh Government to ask for the publication of evidence to justify the delay between the two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from 21 days to 12 weeks.

The UK Government announced yesterday that the interval between doses would change, after apparent agreement between the four Chief Medical Officers.

However, the Welsh Government did not refer to a change in guidelines for the roll-out in its statement to the Senedd yesterday.

In a letter to the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, Mr ap Iorwerth says that the “sudden switch” represents “a very significant departure” from previous guidelines, which has not been explained to the public.

Mr ap Iorwerth says that there are “very real concerns” that the new delay between doses “could significantly decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine” and has asked for the publication of evidence on which the decision was made.

 

‘Sudden switch’

In the letter, Rhun ap Iorwerth says: “Amid the genuine relief yesterday that the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine had been approved for use in the UK, your statement to the Senedd made no reference to a change in guidelines for the roll-out of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

“Everything I have read points to the need to administer a second dose as close to the recommended 21 days as possible. A sudden switch to a maximum 12-week interval between doses, outlined by UK Government yesterday, after apparent agreement between the four Chief Medical Officers, represents a very significant departure from those guidelines.

“Given the very real concerns that the delay in administering the second dose could significantly decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine, could you please provide the scientific and medical evidence on which this decision was made, including the approval that has been given by Pfizer/BioNTech for this change in protocol?

“I would also be grateful for your comments on the ethics of administering a first dose on the understanding that the second would follow in 21 days, only for those who received it to subsequently be told they may have to wait up to 12 weeks.”

‘Shortest time’

The UK Government said the move was to ensure more people are given a first dose to help fight the UK’s rising coronavirus infection rate, with the second dose administered up to three months later.

Speaking at a briefing at Downing Street, Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the Joint Committee of Vaccinations and Immunisations, said the “immediate urgency” was for the rapid rollout of the new Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and to ensure high levels of uptake.

He said: “We recommend delivery of the first vaccine should be prioritised for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

“This will allow the greatest number of people to receive the vaccine in the shortest possible time – and that will protect the greatest number of lives.”

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