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BMA calls for ‘dialogue’ with CMO about cutting 12-week vaccine interval

by Costanza Pearce
25 January 2021

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The BMA has written to the Government calling for ‘a dialogue’ about halving the gap between Pfizer vaccine doses to six weeks.

Official guidance changed on 31 December to say all second doses should be given after 12 weeks instead of three weeks to maximise the number of people protected in the shortest possible timeframe.

Some GPs had decided to honour second-dose appointments already made but NHS England later said this was banned.

Speaking to Sky News over the weekend, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the BMA has written to the chief medical officer (CMO) about the 12-week interval, asking him to ‘reconsider the decision’.

He called on the Government to ‘look at guidance from the World Health Organisation’ (WHO) and ‘take stock of the fact that no other nation in the world has adopted the 12-week delay like the UK’.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey added that the BMA wants ‘a dialogue’ and ‘proper scientific enquiry’ over the issue, using new data from the vaccination programme.

He also told Sky News: ‘We need to understand the data and we want a dialogue with the CMO around that to really fully understand what the situation is now and what level of protection one dose is giving to our patients and to the healthcare professionals.

‘Six weeks is what the WHO recommend – they’ve done an analysis of the initial Pfizer data and it’s what Pfizer would recommend as well, looking at the extrapolation of their own studies – but we’ve now got far more data than the trials have ever had to look at.’

He added: ‘It’s important that we have a proper scientific enquiry, we review the evidence and that we’re open to looking at that evidence and implementing it as best as we can.’

The BMA is ‘talking specifically about the Pfizer vaccine’, as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine ‘has got approval from its manufacturer for a delay of up to 12 weeks’, Dr Nagpaul said.

The BMA has said that it ‘recognises’ the need to ‘protect as many people as possible as soon as possible’ but will be ‘pushing’ for second doses of the Pfizer vaccine ‘as close as possible to the original schedule’.

While there is ‘some evidence’ that a longer interval between doses of the Oxford vaccine ‘promotes a stronger immune response’, there is a ‘lack of data’ on the impact of increasing the gap between Pfizer doses beyond 42 days, it added.

However, any delay to the delivery of second doses ‘must be used to rapidly accelerate vaccination of all frontline healthcare workers’, the BMA said.

It comes as a doctor has raised more than £20,000 to launch a legal challenge against the Government’s decision to extend the gap between doses.

Meanwhile one in 10 GPs are yet to receive their first dose of the Covid vaccine.

Earlier this month, the BMA urgently called on the Government to ensure that GPs and practice staff are vaccinated by the end of January or ‘within two weeks’ if at high risk.

The Government has refused to guarantee that everybody will get their second dose of the vaccine within 12 weeks.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.