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Northern Ireland’s top healthcare professionals have announced that, in light of the spread of the Delta variant of Coronavirus, they are recommending that the current dose intervals between the COVID-19 vaccines should be shortened.

In a joint letter, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Michael McBride; Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Professor Charlotte McArdle and Chief Pharmaceutical Officer (CPO), Mrs Cathy Harrison, said that, based on updated advice from the independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who had considered the latest available evidence on the Delta (B1.617.2) variant, the interval between the first and second vaccine doses should be shortened.

The Delta variant was first detected in India in March 2021 and, while confirmed cases in Northern Ireland remain currently lower than other parts of the UK – with little evidence of sustained community transmission – this situation is likely to change rapidly as a consequence of increased intra CTA travel.

Evidence has also emerged to indicate that the variant is likely to become the dominant strain across the UK.

‘In preparation for this,’ the CMO, CNO and CPO said, ‘it is essential that we continue to vaccinate as many people as possible. There is now strong evidence that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are required to obtain maximum protection against the Delta variant. Therefore we are recommending that from the 14 June the dose interval between COVID-19 vaccines should be shortened to help protect the community from the increasing prevalence of this variant and others that may/will inevitably arise. The dose interval between COVID-19 vaccines will now be as follows:

· Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – dose interval should be 6 weeks

· Moderna vaccine (when it becomes available) – dose should be 6 weeks

· AstraZeneca Vaccine – dose interval should be 8 weeks.

For those who have already received their first dose, scheduled appointments for second doses should remain unaffected.’

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