Pfizer and AstraZeneca have dismissed government warnings of month-long vaccine supply gaps, claiming there will be enough doses to meet the country's ambitious goals.
UK chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned this week that vaccine availability "will remain so for several months" as companies struggle to keep up with global demand.
To ensure ration supplies, the government has promised to give single doses of the Pfizer vaccine to as many people as possible, rather than giving a second dose to those who have already been vaccinated.
However, Pfizer and Oxford / AstraZeneca joint manufacturers have concerns that there is no problem with the supply.
Her intervention comes as coronavirus cases continue to rise with another 53,285 positive tests in the UK – four days in a row with more than 50,000 positive tests announced.
And 613 other people have died from the virus – including an eight-year-old child – and the official death toll is 74,125.
The eight-year-old died in England on December 30 and had other health problems, the NHS said.
At least one million Pfizer doses and about 530,000 Oxford doses are expected to be given to patients across the country next week, reports The Daily Telegraph.
Vaccine companies have rejected government warnings of months of supply gaps, claiming there will be enough doses to meet government ambition goals (file picture)
Margaret Keenan returned to the hospital this week to receive her second round of the Covid-19 vaccine, but thousands of other patients are expected to reschedule their appointments as part of a new program to get more people to get their first dose
Earlier this month, AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot promised the company could deliver two million doses a week by mid-January – which means 24 million could be vaccinated by Easter.
The intervention of the developers of the only two approved Covid vaccines in the UK came in a dispute over ministers' decision to ration vaccine supplies.
Officials said patients who already had a dose of the vaccine should postpone their second – which they were told would receive three weeks later – for up to 12 weeks.
In a statement released on Thursday evening, UK chief medical officers said the decision had been made on a “balance between risks and benefits”.
The medical officers are Professor Whitty (England), Dr. Frank Atherton (Wales), Dr. Gregor Smith (Scotland) and Dr. Michael McBride (Northern Ireland).
They said, “We need to make sure we maximize the number of people eligible to receive the vaccine.
& # 39; Currently the main obstacle to this is the availability of vaccines, a global problem and this will be the case for a few more months, and especially during the critical winter period.
& # 39; The availability of the AZ vaccine (Oxford / AstraZeneca) reduces but does not eliminate this main problem. Vaccine shortages are a reality that one cannot wish for. & # 39;
And they said there is no reason to assume that the vaccines will be less effective if the doses are further apart than intended.
The report added, “For most vaccines, a longer interval between the main dose and the booster dose results in a better immune response to the booster dose.
& # 39; There is evidence that a longer interval between the first and second dose promotes a stronger immune response with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"There is currently no clear evidence that the immune response of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine would be significantly different from that of the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines."
PFIZER strikes back in the UK plan to give people one dose, not two
Pfizer warned yesterday that there is "no data" to show that a single dose of its coronavirus vaccine offers long-term protection after the UK abandoned its original jab rollout plan.
The British medical regulator is now recommending that two doses of Covid should be administered three months apart instead of four weeks so that millions more people can be immunized in a shorter period of time.
The strategy applies to both Pfizer / BioNTech's vaccine and the newly approved Oxford / AstraZeneca sting, although there is limited data on the effectiveness of the starting doses.
It is a direct response to the emergence of Covid cases and hospitalizations across the UK caused by a new, highly infectious strain that emerged in the south east of England in September.
Virtually all of England faces a brutal lockdown by spring, with Covid vaccines the only hope of ending the devastation.
Health bosses now want to give as many people as possible an initial dose instead of holding back the second dose so that more people can enjoy at least some protection.
AstraZeneca praised the move and announced that it had tested the three-month strategy in its studies on a small subset of test subjects.
However, Pfizer said there was no data in its studies to show that its vaccine protects against Covid every 12 weeks.
In a thinly veiled slap in the UK, the US company warned that all "alternative" dosage regimes should be closely monitored by health officials.
Data from the Phase 3 study showed that although partial protection from the vaccine appears to begin as early as 12 days after the first dose, two doses of the vaccine are required to provide maximum protection against the disease, a vaccine effectiveness of 95 percent, ”Pfizer said in a statement.
"There is no data to show that protection is maintained after the first dose after 21 days."
But doctors have been outraged, saying they will not deny vulnerable patients the vaccines they promised them because they fear the one-dose shocks will not work as well.
General practitioners criticized the policy as "grossly unfair" and frustrated scientists warned that clinical trials of the vaccine were only testing how well it worked with a three week hiatus so there is no evidence that the new regimen would work long term.
However, experts in support of the policy change have struck back, saying that every other dose given is another person missing their first, potentially life-saving, vaccine.
Former Health Department vaccination chief Professor David Salisbury said, "Every time we give a second dose now, we hold that back from someone who is likely to die from developing coronavirus."
The government has not yet determined whether there will be sanctions for doctors who refuse to switch to the one-dose policy. A doctor said NHS chiefs had advised her to use "clinical judgment".
Margaret Keenan, the first person in the world to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, received her second bump earlier this week.
But thousands of others across the UK will be postponing their second appointments so the NHS can focus on providing more people with bumps.
According to the Department of Health, a total of 944,539 people across the UK had received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by December 27.
The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) warned of the "ill-conceived" plan to postpone the second dose and would keep many at-risk employees in suspense.
Doctors across the country say they will continue the original three-week vaccination schedule for patients who were promised this when they received their first sting.
General practitioners working for NHS bodies in Black Country and West Birmingham, as well as a doctor in Oxford, said they were keeping the commitments they made to patients.
No10 has put its hopes on the Oxford vaccine, which was approved this week, ending the perpetual cycle of lockdowns and openings that has devastated the economy and healthcare at large.
However, even if 24 million people are vaccinated, life is unlikely to return to normal by Easter, as two-thirds of the population remain susceptible to the disease.
Scientists say that herd immunity – when enough of a population becomes immune that the virus fails – can only be achieved if 70 percent of people are protected. Some experts in the US have warned the number could go as high as 90 percent.
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