BRITISH doctors have said a government decision to delay giving a coronavirus vaccine booster shot to vulnerable patients who have already had a first dose will be distressing and disruptive, their trade union said.
The government said on Wednesday(30) it wanted to give a first dose to as many people as possible before starting to administer boosters at 12 weeks, in an effort to provide more people with a degree of protection more quickly.
But Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) committee for local family doctors, said it was “grossly and patently unfair to tens of thousands of our most at-risk patients to now try to reschedule their appointments”.
For the newly approved vaccine developed by Oxford University and made by AstraZeneca being rolled out in Britain next week, the plan is consistent with a finding that waiting 12 weeks maximises protection against the virus.
But in the case of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot that is already being given, the manufacturer said the shot had not been evaluated on dosing schedules different from the recommended 21 days.
The BMA said scores of doctors had told it that the new approach would distress vulnerable patients and create logistical problems for healthcare staff.
“The BMA believes these are patients that have already been promised … that they will receive a second dose of Pfizer vaccination next week; they have given their consent to receive it and, quite rightly, are expecting to have it,” the BMA said.
More than 616,000 people had been given the Pfizer vaccine by Dec. 20, and the first follow-up injections were given this week, at an interval of 21 days.
The BMA said it would support any doctors who decided to honour existing booster appointments, and urged the government to provide a “scientifically validated justification” for its new approach.
After the British government’s announcement on Wednesday, Pfizer said it had no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose was sustained after 21 days.
A spokeswoman for the National Health Service said the new guidance would “increase the number of vulnerable people protected against Covid over the next three months, potentially saving thousands of lives”.
She said financial and practical help was being provided to help accelerate vaccinations.