Germany and the Netherlands are investigating delaying the delivery of second doses of their coronavirus vaccines in an effort to inoculate more people.
The European Medicines Agency says the second dose should be given within six weeks of the first to ensure maximum protection.
But some countries are looking to expand this. They want to give the first dose to as many vulnerable people as possible.
The German Health Ministry told Euronews it has asked the Robert Koch Institute for an expert opinion on whether a second dose of the approved Pfizer / BioNTech coronavirus vaccine could be administered more than three months after the first dose.
The Netherlands is also seeking expert opinion on faster immunization, including the possibility of delaying the second dose of the vaccine, the Dutch health ministry confirmed to Euronews.
It comes after the UK Said it would allow second doses to be given up to 12 weeks after the first, in part so that more people can get a first dose of the vaccine, advice that has fueled scientific debate on the subject.
Pfizer and BioNTech cautioned that the safety and efficacy of the vaccine had not been tested in different dosing schedules. They Said that most of the trial participants received the second dose within three weeks.
The second dose of AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine was administered 28 days after the first dose during the trials that tested its efficacy.
The US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medicines, disagreed with the UK authorities, stating that “these discussions of changing the dosing schedule or dosage are based on the belief that changing the dosage or dosing schedule can help the public get more vaccines faster. ” .
The agency concluded that “making such changes that are not supported by adequate scientific evidence can ultimately be counterproductive to public health.”
But UK scientists say the delay is unlikely to change the immune system’s response after the second dose.
” Most immunologists would agree that delaying a second ‘booster’ dose of a protein antigen vaccine (such as the two approved COVID-19 vaccines) by eight weeks is unlikely to have a negative effect on the immune response. Post-reinforcement general “. Said a statement From the British Society of Immunology.
He later added: “With the number of cases and deaths continuing to increase at a significant rate, we need to protect as many vulnerable people as possible From the severe COVID-19 illness in the short term.”
Experts in the UK say there is little risk of delaying a booster shot and that a little protection could be offered to more people amid a dire epidemic situation.
” The government is working on the assumption that the vaccine supply will increase over the next three months, and that the administration of second doses will not deny anyone else the first dose,” Said Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the College. From Edinburgh.
” The public health benefits will be greater if all highly vulnerable people can receive at least one dose in the next 12 weeks.”
Meanwhile, the EU has come under fire for a slow launch of the COVID-19 vaccine and, amid a more transmissible variant now in several European countries, many hopes to vaccinate a greater number of vulnerable adults.
” The main risk of delay is that some people may not come back for their second dose. The longer they leave it, the more ‘life gets in the way’: people can move houses, get a new job, develop another illness, lose their cell phone and not being contactable, “Riley Said.
” So in normal times, the interval between doses is a pragmatic balance between the best vaccine efficacy and the best vaccine coverage.”
She Said it doesn’t matter which authorities need to make sure everyone gets their second dose of coronavirus vaccine.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism