The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said it strongly supports changes to the planned interval between currently licensed COVID-19 vaccine doses in the UK.
The government has said that the second dose of both licensed vaccines “should be routinely scheduled between four and 12 weeks after the first dose”, rather than the previous recommendation of a three- to four-week gap.
In a statement published on 6 January 2020, the RPS said that the updated strategy “will protect a greater number of people from COVID-19 disease”. It noted that clinical trial data shows “substantial protection from developing COVID-19 is given from the first dose of the vaccine”, and added that a booster dose is essential for long-term protection, “but this booster dose can be given later to enable more of the population to receive the initial dose quickly”.
The Society said its decision was informed by a range of sources, including a statement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which, among other points, advised a maximum interval between the first and second doses of 12 weeks.
The Society also noted clinical trial data and regulatory approval for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, regulatory approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and a statement from the British Society for Immunology, which said that delaying a booster dose of a protein antigen vaccine by eight weeks would be unlikely to have a negative effect on the overall immune response post-booster.
The RPS also referenced a joint letter from the UK chief medical officers, dated 31 December 2020, which said that “in terms of protecting priority groups, a model where we can vaccinate twice the number of people in the next 2–3 months is obviously much more preferable in public health terms than one where we vaccinate half the number but with only slightly greater protection”.