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Experts split on delaying Covid-19 vaccine second doses. Here's why

February 2, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 21.8%. 2 min read.

Registered nurse Irene Musni administers the COVID-19 vaccine into the arm of a senior citizen at the Corona High School gymnasium in the Riverside County city of Corona, California on January 15, 2021, a day after California began offering the coronavirus vaccine to residents 65 and older. - US President-elect Joe Biden was set to announce his Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan Friday as he bids to wrest the focus from the impeachment of Donald Trump to the agenda for his first days in office. Biden has said he wants 100 million Americans to receive shots during his first 100 days in office, an ambitious goal that would require a big step up in the current pace of distribution. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

To help speed up Covid-19 vaccinations across the United States, especially among high-risk older adults, one idea continues to surface: Postpone second doses. The idea is that delaying second doses for those who have already received a first dose would allow for more people in prioritized groups to get at least one dose if they haven't received it already.

Meanwhile, as debates around delaying second doses continue in the United States, so do a slow vaccine rollout, more Covid-19 deaths and the spread of newly identified coronavirus variants that appear to be more transmissible.

It is still recommended for people to get their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine on time, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a virtual White House briefing on Monday.

"Until we have further data," Walensky said, people should continue to follow the data from trials by continuing the schedule of receiving two doses 21 days apart for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 28 days apart for the Moderna vaccine.

For many other vaccines -- such as the chickenpox, HPV and measles, mumps and rubella vaccines -- their second-dose booster shots are given several months later, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN on Monday.

"At this point, everything we know about vaccines suggests that actually the protection may be enhanced by giving a booster several months after the first dose," said Osterholm, who was a coronavirus adviser to the Biden transition team.

Osterholm said that getting people vaccinated -- even with just one dose for now -- remains urgent as more coronavirus variants circulate, including the B. 1. 1. 7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, B. 1. 351 first identified in South Africa, P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil and the L452R first seen in California.

The Biden administration expressed concern on Monday that health care providers could essentially be hoarding Covid-19 vaccine doses for second shots that could be administered for initial shots.

"We believe that some health care providers are regularly holding back doses that are intended as first doses, and instead keeping them in reserve for second doses for patients," Andy Slavitt, White House Covid-19 senior adviser, said at Monday's virtual briefing.

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