The global leaders in Covid-19 vaccination rates are Israel and the United Arab Emirates. After them come a handful of countries that have each given between 30 and 45 shots for every 100 residents, including the United States, Britain, Bahrain, Chile and Serbia.
But these handful of countries have followed two different strategies. The U.S. and most others have tried to make sure that anybody who gets a first vaccine shot gets the second shot within a few weeks (except in the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot). Britain has instead maximized the number of people who receive one “jab,” as the British call it — and has delayed the second jab, often for about three months.
Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist who led the committee that advised the British government on vaccination, has described the strategy this way: “I think it’s the right public health response, which is to show that you try and vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as possible. Better to protect everybody a bit rather than to vaccinate fewer people to give them an extra 10 percent protection.”
So far, the data suggest that Britain’s approach is working — because even a single shot provides strong protection against the virus.
As Dr. Robert Wachter of the University of California, San Francisco, has written, “According to most vaccine experts, delaying shot #2 by a few months is unlikely to materially diminish the ultimate effectiveness of two shots.”
In Britain, the daily number of new Covid cases has fallen by more than 90 percent since peaking in early January. The decline is larger than in virtually any other country. (In the U.S., new cases have fallen 79 percent since January.) Given that the contagious B.1.1.7 variant was first discovered in Britain and is now the country’s dominant virus form, “Britain’s free-fall in cases is all the more impressive,” Wachter told me. “Clearly their vaccination strategy has been highly effective.”