Chris Whitty 'infuriated at Guardian' over 'total nonsense' claim Pfizer vaccine could only be 33% effective

Chris Whitty 'infuriated at Guardian' over 'total nonsense' claim Pfizer vaccine could only be 33% effective

January 24, 2021

PROFESSOR Chris Whitty was reportedly left infuriated by a newspaper story that claimed a single dose of the Pfizer coronavirus jab was only 33 per cent effective.

The Mail on Sunday understands that the chief medical officer told colleagues that the Guardian article was “total nonsense” and allegedly threatened to report it to a press watchdog.

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Prof Whitty is said to be concerned that the report could make people reluctant to come forward to get the jab.

The newspaper quoted "Israeli experts" as saying only a third of people who have received one injection were protected.

Israel’s coronavirus tsar Professor Nachman Ash suggested a single dose appeared “less effective than we had thought”, and also lower than Pfizer had suggested, The Guardian reported.

An Israeli study of 200,000 over-60s found the first dose led to a 33 per cent drop in cases between 14 and 21 days afterwards.

Britain's joint committee on vaccines immunisation (JCVI) said a single dose would stop 89 per cent of people from developing Covid symptoms.

While Pfizer says a single dose of its vaccine is about 52 per cent effective.

A source told the Mail on Sunday: "It is not every day that a member of the liberal academic establishment is angered by the Guardian."

No.10's options to take action are limited as the Guardian is not a member of the newspaper regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

The paper also reported that Israel's health ministry had "moved to row back on comments" made by Professor Ash, quoting that "the full protective impact of the vaccine" had not yet been seen.

The Guardian said it had reported both Ash's initial and the health ministry's subsequent comments, and confirmed the paper's independent readers' editor had not received any complaints regarding either story.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned the Israeli findings were “preliminary” and more data would be shared in the coming weeks.

Speaking at Friday’s Downing Street press conference, Sir Patrick said: "I think the Israeli health ministry has said they're not entirely sure those are the final data and they're expecting the effects to increase so I think it's very preliminary.

"These are preliminary information from a subset of people, they haven't followed people for long enough. 

"We had a discussion with the Israeli advisers yesterday and they are expecting to get more information over the next few weeks.


"And I think we are going to have to monitor this very carefully, we're going to have to keep looking at data and understanding the performance of vaccines in the real world."

Britain's decision to increase the gap between the first and second doses from three weeks to 12 weeks has been questioned by experts.

Pfizer's data shows its jab is 95 per cent effective after the second dose.

Professor Whitty defended the strategy to delay the second dose.

He said: "We are absolutely clear that everybody needs two vaccinations.

"The first gives the great majority, as far as we can see, of the initial protection, but the second vaccine increases that, and probably makes it longer lasting as well."

He added: "So, we are very much committed to two vaccinations.

"The reason for extending the course of the vaccination is primarily to double the number of people that can get vaccinated, and so it is a public health decision."

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