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Academy statement: COVID-19 Vaccination and second doses

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges firmly supports the decision of the four UK chief medical officers to prioritise the delivery of the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and to delay the second dose to up to 12 weeks.

We recognise the concerns of those who have had a first vaccination and were expecting their second dose. However, with the rapid spread of infection, particularly the new variant COVID-19, the policy of getting the vaccine to as many people as possible in the shortest possible time is, in public health terms, absolutely right.

All the evidence we have seen shows that this is the best approach and, crucially, still safe for those who have had only one vaccination.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has stated that giving priority to the delivery of the first vaccine is “highly likely” to have a greater public health impact in the short term and could reduce the number of preventable deaths from COVID-19. The scientific advice from JCVI to support the decision to prioritise the delivery of the first COVID-19 vaccine dose can be read here.

Delaying the second dose allows more healthcare workers and clinically extremely vulnerable people to be protected as soon as possible. We are clear, however,  that people should and will get the second dose and that supplies will be sufficient for the second dose of the vaccines within the 12 week window. When vaccine supplies outstrip demand this clearly ceases to become an issue but at present the Academy believes this is the right policy.

Colleges and the Academy remain clear that the stopping the spread of the pandemic has to be the absolute priority to protect the vulnerable and to ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed and so unable to deliver COVID and non-COVID care to those who require it.

We therefore continue to strongly support actions to enable this whether in terms of maintenance of lockdown, social distancing and hygiene measures as well as ensuring the greatest number of people receive vaccination by delaying second doses.