Delaying second Covid vaccine jab 'right thing to do', say chief medical officers

Margaret Keenan was the first in the UK to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Credit: PA

Delaying second doses of the coronavirus vaccine so more people can have the first jab is the right decision to tackle “this pandemic which is running rampant in our communities”, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have said.In a joint statement to others in the medical profession, they said they recognised the request to reschedule second appointments is "operationally very difficult" and that it would "distress patients who were looking forward to being fully immunised".However, the CMOs added: "We are all conscious that for every 1,000 people boosted with a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine in January (who will as a result gain marginally on protection from severe disease), 1,000 new people can’t have substantial initial protection which is in most cases likely to raise them from 0% protected to at least 70% protected.

“Whilst the NHS, through all of your work, has so far vaccinated over one million UK patients with a first dose, approximately 30 million UK patients and health and social care workers eligible for vaccination in Phase 1 remain totally unprotected and many are distressed or anxious about the wait for their turn.

“These unvaccinated people are far more likely to end up severely ill, hospitalised on in some cases dying without vaccine."

More than 900,000 pensioners and other vulnerable groups have been given the jab already. Credit: PA

The CMOs were responding to earlier criticism from the British Medical Association which described the move to delay a second jab by as much as 12 weeks as "grossly unfair".

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA GP committee, said GPs were concerned at the change of guidance.He said: "The decision to ask GPs, at such short notice, to rebook patients for three months hence will also cause huge logistical problems for almost all vaccination sites and practices."

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been hailed as a 'game-changer'. Credit: PA

But the CMO statement went on: “Halving the number vaccinated over the next two-three months because of giving two vaccines in quick succession rather than with a delay of 12 weeks does not provide optimal public health impact.

“We have to follow public health principles and act at speed if we are to beat this pandemic which is running rampant in our communities and we believe the public will understand and thank us for this decisive action. We hope this has your support.”