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Vaccination Programme maintains current jab intervals

Fri, 22 Jan 2021

Vaccinations to protect Island residents from serious illness caused by COVID-19 will continue to be given at 21 and 28 day intervals, in line with the full clinical evidence from the manufacturers.

The Island’s vaccination programme began on 4 January 2021, with health and care workers given their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Newlands hub at Noble’s Hospital, to include the over-80s in subsequent weeks. Vaccination rollout expanded further with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on 18 January 2021 administered in the community with care home residents.

The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is planned after a 21 day interval, and after 28 days for the Oxford jab. These intervals were set out in when the medicines regulator authorised the vaccines’ use – and a significant number of second jab appointments have already been booked for Island residents in the top two priority groups, starting next week. 

The interval between doses has since been reviewed in depth by senior clinicians, scientists and regulators in the UK, who agree that the 21 / 28 day interval for the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines respectively, can safely be extended to up to 12 weeks.

The UK Government subsequently changed its approach, extending the timescale for second doses of the vaccine against a backdrop of rising case numbers, severe pressure on hospitals, and deaths.  Given the prevalence of the virus in the UK, the UK Government is focusing its resources on providing first dose protection to a greater number of people in the top priority groups more quickly.

The option to extend the intervals between first and second jabs has also been comprehensively reviewed and discussed by the Department of Health and Social Care Executive Leadership Team, taking into account the views of senior Island clinicians and those involved in the vaccination board.  A wide range of factors has been considered, with a final recommendation based on the current low prevalence of COVID-19 in the Isle of Man, the current risk of transmission, the continuing debate worldwide about the extent of protection one dose of either vaccine provides, and the timing of vaccination supply.

A recommendation to retain the status quo was made by DHSC Executive Leadership Team to Minister David Ashford and his four political departmental members who have unanimously approved the policy position. The decision has since been endorsed by the Council of Ministers.

Minister Ashford said: ‘The recommendation to maintain the 21 and 28 day intervals between jabs is the best solution for the Isle of Man. There is no clinical reason for us to diverge from that position. It is true we could vaccinate a greater number of people in a shorter period of time if we changed tack, but our circumstances are not the same as those in the UK, where the gravity of the situation requires getting vaccine into the arms of as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. The two doses offer fuller protection and our focus is on delivering them.

He added: ‘I acknowledge there are different views on this here as there are in the UK and beyond, and we will continue to keep the matter under close review - and we can of course reconsider our position if the circumstances change and/or further clinical evidence is received. We believe the decision to maintain the current intervals between jabs is the right one for our Island.’

Current rollout plans based on the delivery schedule of vaccine from the UK should see care home residents and staff, the over-80s and health and care staff having been vaccinated with their first dose by end of February, with the remaining vulnerable groups receiving their first vaccination by May. The focus remains on preventing a surge of demand on hospital and health services and protecting the most vulnerable.


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