Massachusetts health care workers who received their first dose of a COVID vaccine will soon be getting their second shot, but at least one New England medical experts is pushing for a delay.
“We’re likely looking at, at least another 100, maybe another 150,000 people dying between now and the end of February, and that’s awful and we’ve got to do things to try to prevent that,” said Brown University School of Public Health Dean Dr. Ashish Jha.
Dr. Jha argues that with case numbers rising, and the new COVID variant threatening to worsen the spread, it may be time to consider delaying the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, to be able to immunize a larger number of people sooner.
“I’m not suggesting that we hold off a second dose for six months or a year,” said Dr. Jha, “I’m saying let’s get all the doses out now, and then as production comes in, we’ll vaccinate more people.”
In an op-ed Dr. Jha co-authored for the Washington Post, he proposed a move similar to what the U.K. is doing, now delaying the second dose up to 12 weeks instead of three or four.
“You’ll still have a very high degree of protection, people should still be social distancing and mask wearing, but it will actually have such a profound impact on protecting so many people,” said Dr. Jha.
It's a call to action from a well-regarded medical expert that not everyone agrees with.
With health care workers scheduled to get their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine beginning this week, hospitals like Mass General, Brigham and Women’s, and UMass Memorial aren’t planning to change dosing schedules.
COVID-19 in Massachusetts
“We want to go with the best scientific evidence, and that’s what the current evidence is, that we need to give two doses for maximum benefit,” said Dr. Richard Ellison, UMass Memorial Medical Center Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Paul Biddinger, the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness for MGH said, “We don’t know for sure how protective a single dose is for a period of time, and we don’t know that if we don’t give the second dose in time whether people’s immunity wanes.”
The medical experts NBC10 Boston spoke with said there are teams of scientists continuing to study the data and modeling -- so the thinking surrounding vaccine dosing schedules could be adjusted if the data calls for it.
Asked about the issue at a news conference on Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker indicated he was skeptical of calls to change the state’s vaccine distribution plan, saying that current policy and protocols, which are “based on the current knowledge and information that's available, delivers on the goals and objectives that are currently available.”
Baker noted that lots of people have been nervous “about the integrity of the process associated with the development of the vaccines,” something he wants to be careful about.