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Quantifying the impact of delaying the second COVID-19 vaccine dose in England: a mathematical modelling study

The UK was the first country to start national COVID-19 vaccination programmes, initially administering doses 3-weeks apart. However, early evidence of high vaccine effectiveness after the first dose and the emergence of the Alpha variant prompted the UK to extend the interval between doses to 12-weeks. In this study, we quantify the impact of delaying the second vaccine dose on the epidemic in England.

We used a previously described model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and calibrated the model to English surveillance data including hospital admissions, hospital occupancy, seroprevalence data, and population-level PCR testing data using a Bayesian evidence synthesis framework. We modelled and compared the epidemic trajectory assuming that vaccine doses were administered 3-weeks apart against the real vaccine roll-out schedule. We estimated and compared the resulting number of daily infections, hospital admissions, and deaths. A range of scenarios spanning a range of vaccine effectiveness and waning assumptions were investigated.

We estimate that delaying the interval between the first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses from 3- to 12-weeks prevented an average 64,000 COVID-19 hospital admissions and 9,400 deaths between 8th December 2020 and 13th September 2021. Similarly, we estimate that the 3-week strategy would have resulted in more infections and deaths compared to the 12-week strategy. Across all sensitivity analyses the 3-week strategy resulted in a greater number of hospital admissions.

Original content: Health Data Research Innovation Gateway