WHO recommends two doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine inside 21 to 28 days

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a WHO building in Geneva

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By Emma Farge and John Revill

GENEVA / ZURICH (Reuters) – People should take two doses of the Pfizer (NYSE 🙂 and BioNTech vaccine within 21 to 28 days, the World Health Organization said Tuesday as many countries have struggled to deliver the shocks that the COVID-19 virus can fight off.

Many of them are facing increasing pressure on their health services as coronavirus cases rise and new variants emerge that appear to be more likely to spread.

Governments are introducing new lockdown measures to stop the spread while facing massive demand for vaccines, which are seen as the best way out of the global health crisis.

Given the limited supply of shocks as production increased, the WHO has studied how to use them most effectively.

“We considered and made the following recommendation: two doses of this (Pfizer) vaccine within 21 to 28 days,” Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), told an online news conference.

The panel said countries should have leeway to spread the footage over six weeks so more people at higher risk of the disease can get them.

“SAGE has envisaged that countries in exceptional circumstances (Pfizer) cut vaccine supplies to delay the administration of the second dose by a few weeks in order to maximize the number of people who would benefit from a first dose,” said Cravioto.

He added, “I think we need to be a bit open to these types of decisions that countries have to make according to their own epidemiological situation.”

According to a Reuters tally, more than 85 million people worldwide are infected with the novel coronavirus, and around 1.85 million have died.

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Joachim Hombach, managing director of SAGE, said that a gap between the two Pfizer vaccinations might be acceptable for countries that are unable to implement the main recommendation.

“The UK’s JCI, the referral body, has given up to 12 weeks more flexibility in light of the special circumstances the country is currently facing,” he said.

“We … fully recognize that countries may see that the administration of the second dose needs to be even more flexible. However, it is important to note that there is very little … empirical data from the studies that do that kind of support recommendation, “he added.

Given the current limited range of vaccines, Cravioto said SAGE did not recommend the Pfizer sting as a priority for international travelers unless they belonged to a very high risk group, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

Kate O’Brien, a WHO immunization expert, said there was fierce discussion at SAGE about the trade-off between strict adherence to the standard dosage in clinical trials and allowing wider use of the vaccine as the first dose, creating the risk of delay in obtaining the vaccine, second dose passed to some people.

Alluding to delays in the introduction of vaccinations, she said, “Nobody expected this to be easy and we are beginning to see where the bumps are in the road and where we need to make adjustments.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said he was “very disappointed” that China did not approve participation in an international mission to investigate the origins of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were detected in China in December 2019.

(Additional reporting and writing by Michael Shields, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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