British govt allows mixing doses of different coronavirus vaccines

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Reuters file photo of British PM Boris Johnson.

  • UK govt allows mixing doses of coronavirus vaccines
  • Move comes despite lack of evidence on immunity offered by mixing doses

LONDON: The British government will be allowing people to be given shots of different coronavirus vaccines on rare occasions.

The move comes despite a lack of evidence about the extend of immunity offered by mixing coronavirus vaccines. 

The government has said that people could be given a mix-and-match of two COVDI-19 shots if, for example, the same vaccine dose was out of stock.

“(If) the same vaccine is not available, or if the first product received is unknown, it is reasonable to offer one dose of the locally available product to complete the schedule,” read the new guidelines issued on New Years Eve. 

It explained that there “is no evidence on the interchangeability of the COVID-19 vaccines although studies are underway”.

The guidelines, however, added that while every effort should be made to complete the dosing regimen with the same vaccine, if the patient is at “immediate high risk” or is considered “unlikely to attend again” they can be given different vaccines.

Read more: Volunteers who got placebo will be given coronavirus vaccine, say Pfizer-BioNTech

Head of immunisations at Public Health England Mary Ramsay said this would only happen on extremely rare occasions, and that the government was not recommending the mixing of vaccines, which require at least two doses given several weeks apart.

“Every effort should be made to give them the same vaccine, but where this is not possible it is better to give a second dose of another vaccine than not at all,” she said.

Britain has been at the forefront of approving the new coronavirus vaccines, becoming the first country to give emergency authorisation to the Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccines last month.

Both vaccines are meant to be administered as two shots, given several weeks apart, but they were not designed to be mixed together.

At least 74,000 people have died due to the coronavirus across Britain, making it the second-highest death toll in Europe. 

Health officials are racing to deliver doses to help end the pandemic as fears grow that the health service could be overwhelmed. The government has reactivated emergency hospitals built at the start of the outbreak as wards fill up with COVID-19 patients.

Also read: US falls short of target of vaccinating 20 million people in December 2020

Earlier this week, United Kingdom sparked controversy by announcing plans to delay giving the coronavirus vaccine booster shot in an attempt to ensure more people could be given the more limited protection conferred by a single dose.

Top United States infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, said on Friday he did not agree with the British approach of delaying the second dose up to 12 weeks. “I would not be in favour of that,” he told CNN. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

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