A top doctor from Sheba has said that she would recommend pushing off administering the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine by a month in order to inoculate more Israelis.
“I think it is more important to get more people vaccinated,” said Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit from Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, “We are only talking about a month. I don’t think it will cause any damage and the damage from the disease is greater.”
Speaking during a briefing on Tuesday, she said that preliminary data shows that after two weeks, 50% of the first 100 people who were vaccinated two weeks ago have developed strong antibodies against the virus. This is up from only between 1% and 2% after one week.
Sheba is evaluating the level of antibodies in hundreds of medical workers who were inoculated at the hospital, but Regev-Yochay said that not everyone has had the vaccine long enough to prove its effectiveness. The hospital will continue to follow these people and more.
Regev-Yochay said the hospital was specifically evaluating for immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, which determine if a person has developed immunity.
She said that she believes the ideal is to use the Pfizer vaccine exactly as done during the clinical trials, which involves a booster shot administered on day 21. She said that she believes the booster is essential, but pushing it off a month is not pushing it off in perpetuity and could be for the greater good.
Other medical professionals, including Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Itamar Grotto, have recommended pushing off the booster to allow more Israelis to take the first shot. However, the Health Ministry’s stance is that the protocol should not be changed.
“The Health Ministry wishes to clarify that anyone who has received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine will also receive the second dose, which was saved while administering the first dose,” the ministry said in a statement Tuesday evening. “The only ones who will be excluded are people who became ill after receiving the first vaccine dose.”
BioNTech and partner Pfizer warned on Monday that they had no evidence that their jointly developed vaccine would continue to protect against COVID-19 if the booster shot is given later than tested in trials.
Moreover, serological tests of people who contracted coronavirus showed that the antibodies do wane over time.