Expert: Extending gap between Covid-19 vaccinations makes 'absolute sense'

Expert: Extending gap between Covid-19 vaccinations makes 'absolute sense'

A healthcare worker administers a Pfizer vaccination to a patient. File Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg Stock Generic

It makes “absolute sense” to widen the gap between doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, a leading immunologist has said.

At present, the gap between doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is roughly four weeks. 

However, proposals to extend the gap to between six and eight weeks are understood to be due before Cabinet next week.

Immunology professor at Trinity College Dublin, Kingston Mills, believes prioritising first doses, and therefore extending the time between doses would a good idea.

“Getting more people vaccinated with a single dose makes absolute sense," he said on Newstalk this afternoon.

“I expect the supply of the vaccines to increase significantly in the next couple of months, so we could be in a position to have lots of doses of really highly effective vaccines.

“So why wait and not immunise as many people as possible now with a single dose, and then go back and boost those when we have lots more supply of the vaccine?” 

On Wednesday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the Government was considering extending the gap between Pfizer and Moderna vaccine inoculations, given the recent setbacks to the rollout of the AstraZeneca and the Johnson and Johnson jabs.

"We are looking for options for how we can keep the pace of the vaccine programme going given the news we've had,” Minister Donnelly said.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

"Certainly extending the interval for Pfizer beyond the four weeks is something that is being looked at.” 

Amid reports of rare blood clots in people who had received these vaccines, the Government announced Monday that the AstraZeneca jab would be limited to those over the age of 60. 

One day later, Johnson and Johnson announced it was pausing the rollout of its vaccine in Europe to investigate reports of blood clots in Covid-19 patients in the US.  

However, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Wednesday that Pfizer/BioNTech had agreed to supply an additional 50m doses to the EU in the second quarter of this year, in addition to the 200m doses it was already slated to provide.

The vaccines will be distributed among EU states on a pro-rata basis, meaning Ireland will receive around 545,000 extra doses of the jab.

Both the Health Minister and Tánaiste have indicated that these extra vaccines would see Ireland's plan to offer 80% of adults their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by June remain in place.

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