With COVID-19 vaccines still in limited supply and case counts threatening to resurge, there is a debate over the benefits of giving more people their first shot and waiting a longer time to administer the second dose, or whether to stay the course and prioritize getting both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine into arms as quickly as possible.
Seattle-area health experts have differing views.
Virologist and vaccine scientist Dr. Larry Corey came out in favor of the two-shot strategy in a recent editorial on the Timmerman Report. Corey, the past president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, argued that giving a single dose risked creating an environment hospitable to new, more dangerous mutations of the COVID virus.
Corey writes: “…the virus, when it gets inside a host with only partial immunity, has a greater opportunity to linger inside the body and keep replicating until it develops certain evolutionary advantages….[It] makes sense to make the virus face off with our most formidable immune defenses. We force it to go up against people who have been fully immunized with the two-dose vaccine regimen.”
Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert for the U.S., likewise defended the two-dose approach.
The case for a delayed second shot
Ruanne Barnabas, an epidemiologist with the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health, has a different take.
“Everyone should get one dose as quickly as possible and as we have enough supply. We can catch up with the second dose,” said Barnabas, who published an opinion piece earlier this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Studies show that a single dose had more than 50% efficacy for both mRNA vaccines, and perhaps more, Barnabas said. And it’s unknown how strong of an immune response is needed to stop the infection. The quick schedule for the booster was driven in part by the urgent need to get a vaccine approved for use, the UW associate professor said, versus medical necessity. Other vaccines, while not based on mRNA technology, commonly have a six-month delay before a second booster shot.
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