France’s national health authority — the Haute Autorité de la Santé — has called for a delay in giving people their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines of six weeks in order to give more people their first jab.
“The still high number of contaminations and the worrying arrival of new variants call for an acceleration of vaccination to face the risk of an outbreak of the epidemic in the coming weeks,” the watchdog wrote in a statement on Saturday.
“In order to protect more quickly a greater number of people at risk of hospitalization or death, HAS recommends extending to 6 weeks the interval between two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” it added.
The call came a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the British variant of coronavirus was more lethal than had been thought.
The French watchdog estimated that delaying the second jab could speed up the protection of the most vulnerable people. It calculated that waiting six weeks before the second vaccine injection would allow 700,000 more people to be vaccinated in the first month.
Paris has struggled with the rollout of its vaccination campaign, with only 1.21 vaccinations per 100 people (823,567 injections in total). That puts it low on the list compared to other EU countries, according to POLITICO research.
Following Johnson’s declaration about the dangers of the U.K. variant, senior doctors called on the British government to cut the gap between giving the first and second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from 12 weeks to six, according to the BBC.
On Friday, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the country was at an “extremely precarious” point, the BBC reported. Although the virus’s reproduction (or R) rate is estimated to be at or below one for the first time since early December, Whitty said “a very small change and it could start taking off again from an extremely high base.”