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Scottish medical backing for vaccine booster delay

Tuesday January 5th 2021

The government's controversial plan to maximise the numbers getting the COVID vaccine gained support from a group of senior doctors yesterday.

Many medical organisations have been alarmed by the decision to delay booster doses by up to 12 weeks.

But yesterday the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said it welcomed the change.

It said it was "imperative" that the number of patients and healthcare staff who are vaccinated is increased as fast as possible.

In a statement it said: "It is essential that the number of people who have been vaccinated with at least one dose of either vaccine is increased as quickly as possible. The Scottish Academy supports the modelling from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which has confirmed that both vaccines provide substantial protection after a single dose.

"Delaying the second dose to 12 weeks will assist with the availability of the vaccines and enable more healthcare workers and those in priority groups to be vaccinated in as short a time as possible.

"This has required a change to the schedule for most of those who have received the current first dose - and the Scottish Academy recognises that this will impact upon workload for those involved in the programme. We understand that both healthcare professionals and the public may have concerns about altering the schedule but this change is based on a review of the evolving clinical evidence from both vaccines. This change will help us to have an immediate impact in our fight against COVID and is the right thing to do.

"We know that many NHS staff are exhausted but are continuing to work extremely hard to keep the public safe - as they have done throughout this pandemic. Those working in general practice stand ready to vaccinate at scale."

It added: "It is essential that there are systems in place to ensure administration of the second vaccine within the 12-week window. In the meantime, as we face rapidly rising numbers of cases of the highly transmissible new variant, social distancing measures become even more important."

Wellcome Trust director Dr Jeremy Farrar gave more cautious support to the new policy, warning that there is no evidence of how long immunity will last from first or second doses.

He said: "Vaccine rollout, even with the two vaccines now available in the UK, will take time to reach initial priority groups. We will speed up the process and reach more people in these groups by extending the gap between first and second doses. To maximise the impact of this, and to ensure we can develop a programme which is already thinking ahead to next winter, large-scale trials of timings of the second vaccine dose should begin when this initial roll out to all vulnerable people is completed.

"At present we do not have the evidence we need for how long the immunity provided by the vaccines will last."

* Brian Pinker, aged 82, became the first person to receive the Oxford adenoviral vaccine yesterday, receiving the injection in Oxford at the hands of Sam Foster, chief nursing officer of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Paediatrician Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, was also among the first recipients.

He said: "It was an incredibly proud moment for me to have received the actual vaccine that the University of Oxford and the AstraZeneca teams have worked so hard to make available to the UK and the world.

"As a paediatrician specialising in infections, I know how important it is that healthcare workers along with other priority groups are protected as soon as possible - a crucial role in defeating this terrible disease."

Tags: Flu & Viruses | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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