Call for spread of Pfizer vaccine doses as study shows high protection of one shot

UCC immunologist says change in State’s strategy would allow more people to get Covid jab sooner

Vaccinator gets ready to administer the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Helix mass vaccination centre in DCU. Photograph: Laura Hutton / The Irish Times.

Ireland needs to rethink its Covid-19 immunisation strategy given new findings in relation to the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine which would allow more people get their first dose sooner, according to an immunologist at University College Cork.

Dr Elizabeth Brint of UCC's Department of Pathology said she believed it could be time to consider spreading out the time between administering the first and second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, thus allowing more people to receive their first shot sooner.

“Recent data published in the medical journal The Lancet on Friday indicates that the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine confers much higher protection than previously thought. In addition, emerging evidence shows that vaccination is indeed reducing transmission,” she said.

“Therefore, surely it is time for a vaccination strategy rethink with a shift to a model more like what the UK is perusing, which is currently achieving good results, with more people receiving the first dose and spacing the second dose out more to, for example, nine to 12 weeks.”


Dr Brint said rethinking the Irish vaccination strategy was particularly pertinent at the moment given that Covid transmission rates remain stubbornly high while anecdotally, it appeared that public compliance with restriction seemed to be on the wane.

“The so-called Brazilian variant has now been detected in our population as of last week, and experience tells us that this will spread despite containment efforts. All these factors predict a potential increase in spread over the next few weeks.

Dr Brint said that the immunological evidence from the UK showed that spreading out the Pfizer BioNtech doses to nine or even 12 weeks did work and there was no reason to assume any drop in overall protection if the times between the first and second doses were spaced out further.

A study published in The Lancet on Thursday and drawing from a group of 9,100 Israeli health care workers, showed that Pfizer’s vaccine was 85% effective 15 to 28 days after receiving the first dose.

On Monday data analysed by Public Health England (PHE) showed the Pfizer provided high levels of protection against infection and symptomatic disease from a single dose, and that hospitalisation and death from Covid-19 will be reduced by more 75 per cent in elderly people who have had a first dose.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times