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Delay the Second Shot? A COVID Debate Unfolds

Some advocate delaying the 'booster' until everyone gets at least the first dose
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2021 12:12 PM CST

(Newser) – With US vaccination numbers way behind schedule, health authorities are sounding out a number of possibilities to get the numbers up. One is to halve the dose of the Moderna vaccine in order to stretch out supplies, a proposal the FDA is expected to consider this week. But as the New York Times reports, another controversial proposal is in wide circulation, one that calls for delaying the second shot—the "booster" shot—so more people can get their initial shot. Three vaccines now in use around the world, those from Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca, call for people to get a second dose about three or four weeks later, per the Hill. But advocates say pushing back that timeline would allow more people to get their first shot and acquire at least a measure of protection. Not everyone, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, agrees.

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"I would not be in favor of that," he said last week, and he added Sunday that the strategy "goes against science," reports CNBC. Not enough data exists to support the notion that the plan is safe, says Fauci. But in a Washington Post op-ed, two health officials argue that delaying the second shot makes sense. Cases are surging and supplies are limited, and something has to give, write Robert Wachter of the University of California at San Francisco and Ashish Jha of Brown University. Yes, the data isn't complete, but what we do have is "reassuring," they write. "In a perfect world, there would be no trade-offs. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we don’t live in a perfect world." The UK has adopted the approach of delaying the second shot, notes the Hill. About 4 million Americans have been vaccinated, well below the goal of more than 20 million by now. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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