Suffolk to go own way and give second dose of Covid vaccine without delay

A patient receives a coronavirus vaccine dose at Two Rivers Medical Centre in Ipswich

A patient receives a coronavirus vaccine dose at Two Rivers Medical Centre in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

GP surgeries giving out the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus jabs in Suffolk have already started to roll out second doses - despite a change of government policy.

When the jabs first arrived, NHS services were told to give patients their second dose 21 days apart, as recommended by the manufacturer. 

However, in recent days government chiefs changed their tune and said a gap of up to 12 weeks can now be given between jabs to help more patients receive an initial vaccine. 

The programme of vaccinating people against Covid-19 will start early next week

The programme of vaccinating people against Covid-19 will start early next week - Credit: Getty Images/Istockphoto

The change of policy has come under fire with the British Medical Association describing the move as “grossly unfair” to patients with second dose appointments already booked.

But it was conditionally backed by experts over the weekend, who said the need to suppress the new coronavirus strain “cannot be overstated”. 

However, it is understood that the second round of Pfizer jabs in Suffolk is being given out after three weeks (21 days) as originally planned and not with a 12-week gap.`

Patients began receiving their final dose on Monday and the aim is for all of those already partially inoculated in Suffolk to gain full protection within the initially agreed time frame, rather than cancelling already-booked appointments. 

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Officials including health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock have defended the move to delay second doses, which he said has been done to maximise the number of people receiving vaccinations. 

He told BBC Breakfast that the decision was “backed by the science” adding that this way will “save more lives”. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said millions of pounds had been given to Suffolk to help beat the vir

Health secretary Matt Hancock said millions of pounds had been given to Suffolk to help beat the virus Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire - Credit: PA

But the SAGE committee added: “In normal circumstances, we would argue for continuation of the earlier plans to administer two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 21 days apart.  

“However, these are not normal circumstances and there are other important public health considerations." 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has also authorised two full doses of the new Oxford/Astra-Zeneca vaccine, with the second dose given four to 12 weeks after the first. 

Staff at Ipswich Hospital on the day of the national Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine rollout

Staff at Ipswich Hospital on the day of the national Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine rollout - Credit: ESNEFT

The first vials arrived at Ipswich Hospital on Monday with the region’s current vaccination programme expected to be boosted by the new jab. 

Mr Hancock hailed the arrival as a "pivotal moment" in the country's fight against coronavirus.

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