Covid vaccine concerns can be cured by transparent decision-making – Scotsman comment

Given the apparent contradiction between guidance from the World Health Organisation about when to give a second dose of the Covid vaccine and the policy being adopted in the UK, it is understandable that a new poll shows just under half of people are concerned about the issue.

Decisions taken about the best use of the Covid vaccines should be explained fully to help ensure public confidence in the process. Picture: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images
Decisions taken about the best use of the Covid vaccines should be explained fully to help ensure public confidence in the process. Picture: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images

Vaccine-maker Pfizer has said there is “no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose [of its vaccine] is sustained after 21 days”, while the WHO recommends no more than a six-week gap between the two doses.

But, in the UK, the two doses for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccines are to be given up to three months apart, a strategy designed to inoculate as many people as possible with one dose first.

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However, as we pointed out earlier this month, some may suspect this is less to do with the correct medical approach and more about logistical problems, particularly given the supply problems that affected delivery of PPE in the early days of the pandemic and the lacklustre use of test-and-trace systems that have proved so effective in other countries, as public health expert Dr Gwenetta Curry discusses in The Scotsman today.

The decision to allow a 12-week gap between doses was taken by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation with support from the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers, and such unanimity should help give us confidence. And the leaders of other countries, including the incoming Biden administration in the US, are reportedly considering whether to follow the UK’s decision.

One concern, as the journal Nature pointed out in an editorial, is that, after the first dose, people may be “more likely to begin resuming pre-pandemic lifestyles, which they should not be doing”.

What is clear from the new poll is that the public need to be reassured that the decisions being taken are the correct ones.

And, in an age of social media, when doubts and misinformation can spread faster than any virus, the best way to do this, as Nature states, is to be transparent about the decision-making process.

The last thing we need is for the vaccination programme – our way out of this crisis – to be undermined because a gap in public knowledge is filled by people who don’t know what they are talking about.

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