There are not enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being supplied to reduce the eight week interval between doses, according to analysts.
“It appears from the data available that Pfizer and Moderna supplies are the pace-limiting factor,” Matt Linley, an analyst at Airfinity, a data company tracking the vaccine rollout, told The Times.
Last month, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that adults in the UK aged between 30 and 39 should seek an alternative vaccine to Astrazeneca, following concerns of rare blood clots.
Now that the invitation to book a jab has extended to all adults over the age of 18 in England, this has put significantly more pressure on the supplies of the two main alternative vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna. Unlike the Oxford-Astrazeneca jab, these have to be imported.
The top government priority is to get as many people as possible a first dose, amongst rising cases of the more transmissable Delta variant of the virus in the UK. This led to Boris Johnson delaying the UK’s full reopening by four weeks from June 21 to July 19 in order to get more of the population vaccinated.
In order to administer as many first doses as possible, the NHS is being instructed to maintain an eight-week interval between the first and second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs.
The decision to maintain the 8-12 week gap was bolstered by data that the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is still effective when doses are administered 12 weeks apart.
However, Pfizer has said it only tested the vaccine’s efficacy when the two doses were given up to 21 days apart.
A spokesperson for the NHS told City A.M: “NHS operational guidance is clear that second doses should be offered from 8 weeks to ensure maximum protection, and this is in line with JCVI and government advice for people aged 40 and over.”
“The NHS is also proactively contacting those who are eligible to bring forward their jab,” they added.
Airfinity told City A.M that according to its model, all UK adults will have had their first dose by July 24.
So far, almost 85 per cent of UK adults have had their first dose, and 62 per cent have had their second.