On 30 December 2020, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised on the safety of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, stating both vaccines provided high-levels of protection against coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, including severe disease. The committee recommends vaccinating more people with the first dose should be prioritised above offering others their second dose, as this will provide the greatest public health benefits in the short-term and save more lives, due to the fact that protection is obtained around two weeks after the first vaccine dose.
The current evidence suggests that increasing age is the single greatest risk factor. As a result, the current recommendation is that residents in a care home for older adults and their carers will be treated first, followed by people over the age of 80 and frontline health and social care workers. The programme will then be rolled out to the rest of the population sequentially based on the JCVI’s priority list. This initial phase of the vaccine programme is estimated to cover around 99% of preventable COVID-19 deaths.
For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the second vaccine dose can be offered between three to 12 weeks after the first dose. For the AstraZeneca vaccine, the second dose can be offered four to 12 weeks after the first dose, although some data from the AstraZeneca vaccine trials suggests that extending the time to the second dose may be better than having the second dose earlier. However, skipping the second dose is not advised, as this may be important for longer lasting protection, however exact durations of protection are currently unknown.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been procured on behalf of the four nations by the UK Government, who have ordered 100 million doses, of which Scotland will get 8.2% based on its population. In Scotland, roll-out of the vaccine started on 4 January 2021, in the settings already being delivered in, before moving out into more community settings from 11 January 2021.
Sources: UK Government, 30 December 2020 and Scottish Government, 30 December 2020