A great-grandmother who caught coronavirus five days after getting vaccinated against the disease has died.
Mary Green, 92, received her first dose at a care home in North Tyneside on New Year’s Eve, giving her family hope she would not face an infection.
But less than a week later the dementia-sufferer tested positive for the virus.
Doctors said she couldn’t be moved to hospital because she was too frail to undergo invasive treatment and would find the change of scene confusing, meaning she had to receive care at her home. She died 12 days later of suspected sepsis, which they said was likely triggered by the virus.
Scientists say it takes around two weeks for the vaccines to spark immunity, suggesting Mary’s first dose came too late to protect her from the disease.
It comes as a top scientist today defended the decision to delay the second dose of the vaccine, arguing it could lead to better protection.
Professor Adam Finn, who helped make the priority list for jabs, said unpublished data suggests the immune response ‘persists nicely’ over the 12-week gap.
He added studies on other vaccines show immunity ‘doesn’t plateau and fall in (12 weeks)’ after a first dose, but is likely to persist and ‘even increase’.
Britain’s regulators stretched the gap between doses to 12 weeks last month, saying it would ‘protect the greatest number of people at risk in the shortest possible time’.
But the move has sparked concern as both the vaccines approved so far – by Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech – rely on two doses to be most effective, with them ideally spaced three weeks apart.
Mary Green, 92, from North Tyneside, caught coronavirus five days after receiving her first dose of the vaccine. She later died of Sepsis, which doctors said was likely triggered by the infection. Vaccines take around two weeks to give protection.
Saturday alone saw 491,970 people get their first dose and 1,043 get their second, the highest daily figures recorded so far
Professor Adam Finn (left) says the 12-week gap between vaccine doses won’t affect immunity. But Sam Monoghan (right), the head of the UK’s largest charity care home, says he is worried it is leaving residents half-protected
DOCTORS UNION SAYS GAP BETWEEN DOSES SHOULD BE ‘NO MORE THAN SIX WEEKS’
The British Medical Association (BMA) recommended cutting the waiting time to six weeks, warning in a letter that the strategy is ‘difficult to justify’ and the UK is ‘internationally isolated’.
Dr Richard Vautrey, Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, told Sky News on Saturday that they are ‘in dialogue’ with Prof Whitty over the 12-week gap, saying ‘we need to understand the data’.
Both the vaccines approved so far – one made by Pfizer and the other by Oxford University – rely on two doses to be most effective, with them ideally spaced three weeks apart.
But in a scramble to stop the devastating second wave of Covid-19, Britain has abandoned this rule and decided it will extend the gap to 12 weeks so it can give more people a single dose as soon as possible.
In a private letter to Professor Chris Whitty, the BMA indicated that second doses may not be guaranteed following a 12-week gap due to the ‘unpredictability of supplies’, reports the BBC.
Although agreeing that the jab should be ‘rolled as quickly as possible’, the association called for an urgent review of the policy that is ‘proving evermore difficult to justify’.
A BMA spokesman told MailOnline: ‘This letter to the Chief Medical Officer represents part of an ongoing dialogue about the best approach to the rollout of the vaccine and shares with him the growing concern from the medical profession regarding the delay of the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as the UK’s strategy has become increasingly isolated from many other countries.
Mary’s heartbroken son Chris, 52, said the family had a visit to see Mary at Charlton Court care home cancelled on January 2 due to lockdown, reports ChronicleLive.
‘She was a casualty of what we’re going through at the moment with Covid,’ he told the newspaper.
‘The care she needed in her final days wasn’t in care home setting, it was in a hospital setting, and she couldn’t have that.’
A family member – who asked not to be named – said they thought Mary had received the vaccine either just before or just after she was infected.
‘You do wonder if they’ve let their guard down once they’ve had the vaccine,’ they said.
‘We haven’t been inside the home since March, we’ve only been able to see her from outside under a gazebo behind a screen.’
Scientists say it can take at least two weeks for the vaccine to trigger immunity, as they urge those who have received their first doses to continue to follow restrictions.
Studies on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine show it protects volunteers after the first 14 days, a week before the company says the second dose should be administered.
And scientists say results suggest it takes a similar amount of time for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to also provide protection.
It comes as a top scientist sought to defend the decision to stretch the gap between doses to 12 weeks, and argued it could offer even better immunity than the three week gap.
Professor Finn, who is a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘The data that I’ve seen – which has not yet been published – suggests certainly that (immunity) persists nicely through (the 12 weeks).
‘If anything it slightly rises and certainly there is no sign of any significant fall.
‘But more importantly, as I say, is that the delayed second dose is going to give us better protection on into the year.’
The Bristol University professor added: ‘What we know from other vaccines and from the human immune responses is that they don’t plateau and fall in that time period.
‘It’s likely that there will be persistent and even increasing protection over that time and perhaps most important of all we expect to see much better protection after the second dose even if it’s delayed.
‘We know that for the Oxford vaccine and we know that for many other vaccines.’
The British Medical Association (BMA), the doctors trade union, called for the gap to be cut to no more than six weeks this weekend, saying the delay between doses could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.
But when quizzed on their appeal, Professor Finn accused them of failing to ‘understand the issues’ with lengthening the gap between doses.
‘The fact is that other countries are looking at what the UK is doing with enormous interest,’ he said.
‘This may well turn out to be another example of a long tradtions in us being innovative, creative in our resources, and producing a much better way of using the vaccines.’
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured visiting a vaccination centre at The Hive, North London, today. The Government is aiming to get 15million of the most vulnerable their first doses by mid-February
Amid mounting concern over the decision to delay the second dose Sam Monaghan, the chief executive of Britain’s largest charity care home provider MHA care, said he felt residents were being ‘left more vulnerable’ because of the time between the first and second doses.
‘(Our concern is) whether the lengthening of the gap between the two doses for such a highly vulnerable group of our society, when that seems to be against the guidance from the World Health Organization and the manufacturer’s own guidance, what the impact of that is.
‘I suppose, inevitably, it leaves you feeling that our homes and our older people are left more vulnerable because there’s a longer time that they’re unprotected from the first dose.’
He added: ‘It’s leaving our residents with only 50 per cent or 60 per cent of the protection that they would have, and when we know that it would be around the 90-95 per cent mark if they’d had both doses.’
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, its chair of council, called for the UK to follow ‘best practice’ and reduce the waiting time to six weeks on Saturday.
‘Most nations in the world are facing challenges similar to the UK in having limited vaccine supply and also wanting to protect their population maximally. No other nation has adopted the UK’s approach,’ Dr Nagpaul told BBC Breakfast on Saturday.
‘Obviously the protection will not vanish after six weeks but what we do not know is what level of protection will be offered. We should not be extrapolating data where we don’t have it.
‘I do understand the trade-off and the rationale but if that was the right thing to do then we would see other nations following suit.
He added: ‘The concern we have if the vaccine’s efficacy is reduced then of course the risk is that we will see those who are exposed maximally to the virus may get infected.
‘The other worry is that members of the population, those who are at highest risk, may not be protected.’
Almost half a million Britons have been vaccinated in a single day, official figures reveal, as the rollout continues to gather steam.
Department of Health data shows a record 493,013 jabs were administered on Saturday, marking the fifth day in a row that the operation has picked up the pace.
And three quarters of Britain’s over-80s have now received their first dose, according to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, in another promising sign that the country could be on course to hit its ambitious target.
Ministers are aiming to get first vaccine doses to around 15million people by February 15, targeting those who are most at risk of dying if they catch Covid-19.
These include all over-70s, people on the shielding list because of long-term illnesses, all care home residents, and frontline NHS staff and social care workers.
A total of 6.35million people have been vaccinated already, meaning there are another 8.6million to reach, which will require a rate of around 393,000 per day.
Charlton Court care home has been contacted for comment.
‘Uncertain’ if mutant Covid more dangerous, admits Hancock as he warns lockdown won’t ease soon
Matt Hancock today admitted there is ‘uncertainty’ over whether the Covid variant is more deadly as he warned that people should take precautions based on the risk.
In interviews this morning, the Health Secretary cited warnings from scientists that the mutant strain first detected in Kent could be between 10 and 50 per cent more lethal.
But after criticism that the government was scaring people before the picture was clear, he admitted there are ‘uncertainties’ – while insisting that is the ‘nature of science’.
He also fuelled rumours of Cabinet splits on how tough to make the UK’s border policy by saying ‘precautions’ against variants that have not yet been detected.
And he delivered a grim message to those hoping lockdown could any anytime soon, insisting case numbers are a ‘long, long, long way’ from being low enough.
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge programme, Mr Hancock said: ‘The scientists do think it may be more deadly. They have put various estimates..’
He said that ‘communicating risk is challenging’ as he defended Boris Johnson’s decision to reveal the news on lethality at a dramatic press conference on Friday night.
‘There are uncertainties on that. That is the nature of science… the vast majority of the public understand that,’ Mr Hancock said.
‘There is a risk the new variant is more deadly. We know it is more transmissible.’