Concerns have been raised that the UK's plan to space out Brits' doses of one coronavirus vaccine may actually stop the jab from working properly.
The Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine offers up to 95% immunity from coronavirus if given in two stages two weeks apart, according to data from the drug manufacturer.
But the UK's medical regulator, the MHRA, is now recommending that the two jabs are given 12 weeks apart, in a bid to get more people into the first stage of immunisation sooner
However, the US drugs giant is now warning that the UK plan could risk giving the public no immunity at all, and that the partial protection offered by the stage one jab could fade after as little as three weeks.
In a statement, Pfizer said: “Data from the phase three study demonstrated that, although partial protection from the vaccine appears to begin as early as 12 days after the first dose, two doses of the vaccine are required to provide the maximum protection against the disease, a vaccine efficacy of 95%.
“There are no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days.”
The NHS pre-ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and has taken delivery of 800,000 so far. That should theoretically provide protection for 400,000 people.
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At the same time, medical regulators also placed orders for 100 million doses of the easier-to-use AstraZeneca Oxford University vaccine.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the company’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said AstraZeneca could provide the UK with as many as 2m doses a week and would start shipping the first batch “today or tomorrow”.
He said: “Vaccination will start next week and we will get to 1m a week, and beyond that a week, very rapidly."
Mr Soriot added that the three-month gap between initial dose and booster jab would not be a problem with his company’s product.
“The good news with this,” he said, “is we are going to be able to inject a lot of people with one dose very quickly, provide them with a reasonably good dose of protection until they get their second dose two to three months later.
“That will enable us to protect many more people because we can wait two to three months for the second dose.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised that every adult in the country will eventually be offered a vaccination.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “Because we’ve got enough of this vaccine on order to vaccinate the whole population – we’ve got 100m doses on order – add that to the 30m doses of Pfizer and that’s enough for two doses for the entire population.
“So I can now say with confidence that we can vaccinate everyone, except of course for children because this vaccine has not been trialled on children, and anyway children are much, much less likely to have symptoms from the disease.”
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