Experts tout delaying second COVID vaccine dose as US deaths mount

Feb. 2, 2021

Following record COVID-19 deaths in January, several US experts extolled the benefits of vaccinating as many people as possible with one dose of COVID vaccine before ensuring people receive the recommended second dose, according to a report from Stephanie Soucheray for Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) News of the University of Minnesota.

Some public health experts are urging the federal government via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to immediately review data from Pfizer and Moderna, which are approved for use as two doses given three to four weeks apart and consider giving as many first doses to people 65 and older as quickly as possible, and not withhold vaccines for planned second doses. Such a dosing strategy has already been used in the United Kingdom and Israel, two countries further ahead in vaccinating their populations than the United States.

"The maximum public health benefit would come from giving a single dose to as many people as possible and following up with a second dose when supply improves," said Neal Halsey, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, in an interview. Halsey and Stanley Plotkin, MD, co-authored a letter in Clinical Infectious Diseases last week explaining how delaying a second dose of vaccine would accelerate the US vaccine rollout.

Halsey said data from both companies show the first dose of the vaccine offers significant protection against COVID-19 in the short term, for at least one to three months after injection. He also said he and Plotkin believe this was the most beneficial public health strategy even before the arrival of new variants of the virus was discovered.

"There are a number of examples of changing [vaccination] course because ACIP takes into account public health impact," Halsey said. "We asked the ACIP to review in depth this strategy to give one dose as rapidly as possible. Such a meeting should be scheduled as soon as possible."

CIDRAP has the report.

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