NHS hospitals could be banned from dispensing Covid vaccines if they fail to adhere to the strategy of delaying second doses for three months or more.
An internal memo sent to staff at a Southampton hospital and seen by The Independent warned that second doses should not be given prematurely.
The UK government has gone against the vaccine manufacturers’ instructions to delay the first and second dose of Covid-19 vaccines by 12 weeks or more instead of the recommended three weeks.
The controversial decision was made to try to expand the limited supply of jabs to as many people as possible, rather than provide stronger protection for a smaller number.
But it has received strong criticism from scientists and doctors, with medics now writing to Health Minister Matt Hancock and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi urging them to rethink policies.
The Doctors’ Association UK said no studies had been done to prove that a single dose of a vaccine, or two very widely spaced, would reliably prevent cases of Covid-19.
It comes as Matt Hancock bragged today that Britain has given more than 5 million doses to 4.6 million people in the UK – about one in 14 people.
William Shakespeare, 81, was one of the first people in Britain to receive a Covid vaccine. He was photographed last year in a hospital in Coventry
University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust staff, The independent reports, received an email saying, ‘This has become of the highest political significance. David French, our CEO, has received a letter that is absolutely crystal clear and leaves nothing to the imagination – under no circumstances should we offer a second vaccine before 12 weeks, at the risk of losing our license.
‘This is currently not negotiable in any way. A region near us has given 34 second doses and is being centrally investigated. ‘
A University Hospital Southampton Foundation Trust spokesperson told The Independent, “No vaccine has been wasted now that we have gone through our first dose program, offering a second dose 12 weeks after the first, which is in line with national guidelines.”
NHS England denied the claim that hospitals would lose their vaccination permits for failing to comply with the rules, but declined to comment.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), which sets the ground rules for the vaccine program, has said the country should get the first doses of the shots to as many people as possible.
While a single dose of the two doses of vaccine regimens does not provide as much protection, it can still prevent many people from getting Covid-19.
The JCVI claims that one dose of the Pfizers vaccine can prevent as many as 89 percent of diseases.
But new data emerging in Israel suggests that protection from this initial dose could be as low as 33 percent, meaning two-thirds of people who received the single vaccination dose could still get Covid if exposed to the virus.
This has not yet been verified in any publicly available scientific study, but raises concerns about Britain’s strategy.
When the UK made the decision to split the doses with a wider gap than Pfizer intended, both the company and the World Health Organization declined to endorse the policy, saying there was no evidence that the shot would still work.
Now angry doctors have written to the government urging them to rethink.
Doctors ‘Association UK has warned that the move will put patients’ health at risk and there is no reliable science to prove that the vaccines work when administered in this way.
The organization issued its warnings in a letter to health bosses, including Matt Hancock, Professor Chris Whitty, vaccine secretary Nadhim Zahawi, and Sir Simon Stevens, CEO of the NHS, The Times reports.
It said, ‘We must be clear that it is completely unacceptable to ignore the need for a second vaccination.
All studies confirm the need for this to provide reliable and lasting immunity.
“It should be noted that there is currently no data on the reliability of the immune response when vaccines are exchanged.”
They added, “We understand the reason for the delay in scheduling the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech from three to 12 weeks.
The concerns stem from decisions made without acknowledging the consequences of implementing them on the front lines.
“ We are concerned that there are no clear plans to monitor and monitor the immunity of these patients to ensure that the 12-week booster is sufficient as this schedule goes against the advice of both the manufacturer and WHO . ‘