UK decision to delay second vaccine dose credited with saving ‘large number of lives’

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the “exciting new data” as “extremely good news”.
UK decision to delay second vaccine dose credited with saving ‘large number of lives’

The decision to delay second doses of vaccine to ensure more older people are protected quickly has been praised. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

A decision by the UK government to delay second doses of Covid vaccines in an effort to jab more older people has been credited with saving a “large number” of lives, after data suggested hospital admissions are being greatly reduced by the rollout.

The “exciting” and “hugely reassuring” results from a Public Health England (PHE) study have indicated that the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective in reducing infections among those aged 70 and over.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said data showing vaccine effectiveness against illness of approximately 60% and a reduction in the likelihood of hospital admission by 80% after a single dose gives the “first glimpses” of how the jabs programme is working.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the “bold” decision to delay the second dose so more older people could be protected by a single dose more quickly had saved lives.

He said: “These real world results from Public Health England demonstrate a very good effect from both vaccines after the first dose.

“The Covid vaccination strategy was designed to prevent as many deaths as quickly as possible.

“The bold decision to vaccinate more older people by delaying the second dose has undoubtedly saved a large number of lives.”

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the “exciting new data” as “extremely good news”.

He said the results may go some way to explaining why the number of Covid admissions to intensive care units among people aged over 80 in the UK have dropped to single figures in recent weeks.

Mr Hancock is due to address MPs on the latest coronavirus developments in the Commons on Tuesday, a date which marks 12 weeks since the UK vaccine rollout began.

Downing Street has committed to ensuring people receive their second jab within 12 weeks, a policy recommended by the JCVI.

(PA Graphics)

Prof Van-Tam said the data “gives us those first glimpses of how, if we are patient, and we give this vaccine programme time to have its full effect, it is going to hopefully take us into a very different world in the next few months”.

Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, described the PHE study results as “hugely reassuring” and echoed praise for the decision to delay second doses.

He said: “This study gives very clear evidence that the UK strategy of delaying the second dose to allow more people to be protected by a first dose was the right approach to reduce the pressure on the NHS and reduce the number of deaths in this (older) age group.”

Professor Azra Ghani, chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, said those who have been jabbed should “feel reassured that they will be highly protected with one dose, but will also further benefit from their second dose regardless of which vaccine they received”.

British government data up to February 28 shows that of the 21,091,267 jabs given in the UK so far, 20,275,451 were first doses – a rise of 185,900 on the previous day.

A further 104 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday – the lowest daily figure since October 26 – while there were another 5,455 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.

(PA Graphics)

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