GMB: Dr Amir Khan discusses Pfizer vaccine delay
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Pfizer vaccines are being issued nationwide, with Britons receiving two jabs to ensure long-lasting immunity from coronavirus. In the UK, currently, 31.6 million people have received their first dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine, with 5.7 million also receiving their second dose. Now the Moderna vaccine is also being issued – with the first jab in the UK given today. However, now there have been some concerns over delays to second doses.
For both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine, two doses are required to ensure long-lasting protection against COVID-19.
Once you have received the first vaccine, you will either be offered the chance to book an appointment from a range of slots or told when to attend for your second dose.
The NHS website states: “You will have the second dose three to 12 weeks after having the first dose.”
Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray today read out a message from Kelly Hoppen, who said she had received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, but some of her friends have now had their second dose appointments cancelled.
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Adil pointed out the second doses of Pfizer are meant to be given “within 12 weeks” and Kelly was worried hers would be delayed too.
The GMB presenter then asked Dr Amir Khan for those who have had their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and their appointments have been cancelled – “what’s going on there?”
In response to whether there are concerns around Pfizer vaccine delays Dr Amir Khan said the Pfizer vaccine “ideally should be given at 12 weeks after your first dose.”
He explained delays and cancellations are “probably due because of delivery issues rather than problems at the vaccination centre itself.”
Dr Amir went on to explain for those who have seen delays: “We don’t know for sure what happens beyond that 12 weeks, but chances are your immune system will pick it up and you’ll be absolutely fine.”
He added he had “spoken to an expert about this previously, and they don’t think a few days either side of that 12 weeks will make a massive difference to your immune response.”
On December 30, 2020, the decision was made to give the second doses of the Covid vaccines towards the end of the 12 week period, rather than closer to three weeks.
In a letter to healthcare staff, NHS England said the decision had been taken to prioritise giving the first doses of vaccine to as many people as possible on the priority list to “protect the greatest number of at-risk people overall in the shortest possible time.”
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Delaying the second dose meant the prioritisation process would “have the greatest impact on reducing mortality, severe disease and hospitalisations and in protecting the NHS and equivalent health services.”
In a joint statement, Pfizer and BioNTech said: “The safety and efficacy of the vaccine has not been evaluated on different dosing schedules as the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design…
“There is no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the space between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should be over 42 days.
However, Andrew Pollard, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator into the trial of this vaccine, said extending the gap between vaccines made biological sense.
“Generally, a longer gap between vaccine doses leads to a better immune response, with the second dose causing a better boost.”
Mr Pollard told the British Medical Journal with HPV vaccine for girls, for example, the gap is a year and gives better responses than a one month gap.
He explained: “From the Oxford vaccine trials, there is 70 percent protection after the first dose up to the second dose, and the immune response was about three times greater after the second dose when the second dose was delayed, comparing second dose after four weeks versus second dose after two to three months.”
If your vaccine appointment has been delayed or cancelled what should you do?
The first step would be to rebook your appointment as soon as you are able to do so.
If you are concerned about your vaccine, you can also contact the number given on any correspondence you have – whether this is a letter, text or email concerning your appointments.
On any correspondence from the NHS or your GP about the vaccine, there will be a contact number for appointment queries, rescheduling and booking appointments.
You can also use the NHS national booking service to cancel, book or reschedule vaccine appointments.
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