Jonathan Van-Tam tells LBC he is 'comfortable' with Covid vaccine second dose delay

13 January 2021, 09:50 | Updated: 13 January 2021, 10:00

By Maddie Goodfellow

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has defended the delay in second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, telling LBC he is "absolutely comfortable" with the system.

Speaking during AskJVT on LBC, Prof Van Tam said: "I do understand the concerns that people are raising about this, but I want to make it clear that the second dose is not cancelled, it is deferred.

"We will definitely come back to the second dose and it is very important to come back to it.

"But, moving from the outside in, we are in a constrained supply situation.

His comments come after ministers and scientists made the decision to prioritise giving first doses to more people as opposed to the initially planned two doses.

It means the period between the two jabs has now been made longer, more like of a number of weeks, in order to give semi-protection to a larger number of people.

A total of 2.33 million Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England up to January 10, according to provisional figures published by NHS England.

Of this number, 1.96 million were the first dose of the vaccine and 374,613 were the second dose.

Speaking about the decision to delay second doses, Prof Van Tam explained: "There has been a great headline, and it's a true headline, that the UK has secured access to 367 million doses of vaccine over the course of the end of last year and this year.

"But it won't all come at once and you can't make it all at once. It's not all Pfizer or AstraZeneca, and some of it is vaccine that we're committed to if it passes stage three clinical trials.

"In other words, some of it may fail. So the idea that we've got access to loads and loads is actually formed of stages and it's multiple products."

Prof Van Tam continued: "The truth is, we've all got older loved ones, and if we want to protect as many as we can, as quickly as possible, with a meaningful amount of protection then the right strategy for us is to give the initial does and come back for the second when we've given more people the initial first dose.

"It's really boiling down to if you've got two grandparents and you've got two vaccines, what do you do?

"Do you give two doses to one and leave the other one with nothing?"

On Monday, NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens said some "clinical decisions" were taken to give the follow-up jabs.

He explained to MPs at the Commons Public Accounts Committee: "There were some second jabs, where that was a clinical decision to do so given that last week was just a few days after the changed advice from the JCVI and chief medical officers."

The health service boss described the vaccine roll-out as two "sprints" and a "marathon" to get vulnerable groups and then the rest of the adult public an injection.

Pushed by Nick over the safety of only giving one dose, Mr Van Tam said: "I'm absolutely comfortable with just one dose, it has been science tested by experts.

"The JCVI have taken the Pfizer data and looked at the protective effectiveness of the first dose. If you take away the infections that occur one or two days after someone has taken their first dose, which the vaccine couldn't prevent anyway, and look at those after two or three weeks, you get to a protective effectiveness of around 90 per cent.

"That's really quite a lot of protection after a first dose."

Pushed on how long the first dose will last, Prof Van Tam said: "There will be plenty of protection on board right up until the second dose.

"In working practice, it will be around 10-12 weeks."