January 22, 2021

WHEN ATTITUDES SHIFT OVERNIGHT: Is ‘first dose first’ the right vaccination strategy?

What a difference a couple of weeks makes. In mid-December, I asked a collection of wise guests on my BBC radio programme How to Vaccinate the World about the importance of second doses. At that stage, Scott Gottlieb, former head of the US Food and Drug Administration, had warned against stockpiling doses just to be sure that second doses were certain to be available, Economists such as Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University had gone further: what if we gave people single doses of a vaccine instead of the recommended pair of doses, and thus reached twice as many people in the short term? . . .

The concept was roundly rejected. “This is an easy one, Tim, because we’ve got to go with the scientific evidence,” said Nick Jackson of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. “And the scientific evidence is that two doses is going to provide the best protection.”

My other guests agreed, and no wonder: Jackson’s view was firmly in the scientific mainstream three weeks ago. But in the face of a shortage of doses and a rapidly spreading strain of “Super-Covid”, the scientific mainstream appears to have drifted. The UK’s new policy is to prioritise the first dose and to deliver the second one within three months rather than three weeks. Cynics argue that this change is a wearingly familiar display of dishonesty and short-termism, designed to produce flattering figures about the number of people vaccinated. Yet the recommendation comes not from ministers but from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Strikingly, many scientists have given the move their approval. Others remain sceptical and are alarmed both by the shift in policy and by the way it was announced. There are several different issues to untangle here.

More at the link.

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