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“They’re taking a gamble”

Virologist Steven Van Gucht, head of viral diseases at the Belgian health science institute Sciensano, says that by delaying the second jab of the corona vaccine the UK has taken a gamble. In Belgium the second jab is administered as prescribed by the manufacturers shortly after the first shot.

Nearly 18 million Britons have had a shot of the corona vaccine – around a third of the adult population – while in Belgium the figure is under 5% of adults. The UK has adopted a different approach by counting on the first shot to give protection and in his way freeing up more doses of the vaccine. Belgium is administering the second dose as prescribed by the manufacturer.

“They are taking a gamble in the UK” says Prof Van Gucht. “It may work effectively, but that hasn’t been proved.  We now have South African and Brazilian variants that are different from the variants against which the vaccines were developed.  We believe the vaccines will work more efficiently against variants after two doses.  If you use one dose there may be leeway for a deviant variant to break through this immunity.  This risk is lower after two doses because antibodies are more numerous and there is better protection.”

Prof Van Gucht emphasises that the UK is receiving more vaccines from suppliers than Belgium:

“We must investigate how this could happen.  If we got as many doses, the vaccination drive would proceed as smoothly here as at present in the UK.  I’m certain of it.”

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