Experts from the General Directorate of Health (DGS) recommend task-force of the Government that is responsible for the Vaccination Plan against covid-19 to extend the interval between the administration of the two doses of the vaccine, in order to increase the number of people protected. But the suggestion was rejected due to doubts about the effectiveness of the protection.
This divergence of positions is confirmed by the coordinator of the group responsible for the National Vaccination Plan against covid-19, the task-force created by the Government. Francisco Ramos notes in Público that the suggestion of the DGS Vaccination Technical Commission was rejected because it is awaited the “EMA assessment [Agência Europeia do Medicamento]”.
“Most countries are following the 21-day interval”, stresses Francisco Ramos. This is the period recommended by the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, while the Modern suggests an interval of 28 days.
“At this very critical time, and to try to contain the avalanche of people arriving at hospitals, we recommend a change of strategy, which involves extending this interval [entre as duas tomas] for six weeks, 42 days, or more, ”reports epidemiologist Manuel Carmo Gomes, who is a member of the DGS Commission, in statements to the public.
“There is no problem with giving the second dose after six weeks, it is even better in terms of immunogenic response“, Assures this specialist, considering that“ the companies [farmacêuticas] did tests with the interval of 21 days [no caso da vacina da Pfizer/BioNTech] because that was the minimum interval and it was necessary to speed up the rehearsals ”.
However, this issue is not consensual. Pfizer itself warns, in a note sent to Público, that “so far there is no data that demonstrate that protection after the first dose is maintained after 21 days without the administration of the second dose ”.
But countries like the United Kingdom and Denmark are embarking on this strategy, given the lack of vaccines on the market. However, other countries, such as Germany and Canada, are considering extending the interval between doses.
A clearer position is expected from the EMA, which has already admitted extending the spacing to 42 days. However, he recommended that the interval should be three weeks instead of the 21 days that he initially defined.
“On one moment as difficult as the present, maybe it’s justified to protect as many people as possible. Delaying the second dose a few weeks does not mean taking unnecessary risks, especially since clinical trials have included [no caso de alguns participantes] the interval of 42 days ”, reports the immunologist Luís Graça, a researcher at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Público.
Countries “have to assess the current situation and consider whether the benefit of straying a little from the ideal is greater than the risk”, notes the immunologist, concluding that “the risk, in principle, is not very great“.
AstraZeneca vaccines arrive in the EU “in the next few days”
And while the market is desperate for more doses of vaccines, AstraZeneca’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, guarantees that the European Union (EU) will receive, “in the next few days”, a first delivery of three million vaccines against the new coronavirus, after the green light for its use by the European regulator.
“We have a substantial amount (of doses) already prepared to send to the respective countries”, guarantees Soriot, noting that it is “too early” to provide concrete data on future deliveries.
The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company is involved in a controversy with the EU due to the delay in the vaccine delivery schedule agreed for the first months of this year. Soriot guarantees that the company “has identified additional resources” that it “will collect from other parts of the world” to “complete the supply” of the EU.
“We’re working twenty-four hours a day to improve our ‘stocks’ and we have millions of doses ready to start shipping to the EU ”, says the official.
Soriot also claims that “most of the problems” that limited manufacturing have already been solved and that “production is expected to improve rapidly in the coming months“.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is the third EMA approved vaccine against covid-19, considering it suitable for all adults.
However, the German Vaccination Commission has recommended that its use should be limited to people up to 65 years, considering that there is insufficient evidence to support its effectiveness above that age.
Oxford Vaccine Group director Andrew Pollard, who collaborated in creating the AstraZeneca vaccine, says that its effectiveness in people over 65 must be “similar” to that presented in young adults.