Dame Esther Rantzen has said she is “so glad and so relieved” her second shot of the coronavirus vaccine has been delayed, allowing someone else to have an initial dose.
The Childline founder, aged “80 and a half”, said “I really want my second jab to protect somebody who needs it more than me” and underlined how “precious” it is to have an extra level of defence against the virus.
The UK’s chief medical officers have said the first Covid-19 vaccine dose offers “substantial” protection, and vaccine dose schedules have been altered so more people can have their first jab.
Rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible, the second dose of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will now be within 12 weeks of the first.
Dame Esther told the PA news agency she felt “privileged” to have had an initial shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine just before Christmas, and was due for her second on January 13.
But on Tuesday she was told it was being postponed.
The veteran TV presenter told PA: “I was so glad and so relieved.
“I really want my second jab to protect somebody who needs it more than me.
“Members of my family work in the NHS, I have friends being looked after in care homes, I know how precious that protection is.
“I have self-isolated since last March, except seeing my family in the summer, when we had different rules.
“The work I do, I can do through the internet, I’m in a very privileged position and I don’t want the extra privilege of a second jab.”
Dame Esther called the vaccine an “extraordinary creation”, adding of the UK: “We seem to be ahead of the game.”
The long-time campaigner added: “I can’t pretend this lockdown is the same as the last one. Last time there was a sort of Battle of Britain feeling, a great community spirit, banging saucepans, a real spring in our step.
“This time you think ‘heavens have we got to do this again?’ And it’s not spring but the bleak midwinter.”
Dame Esther, who also founded The Silver Line helpline for lonely older people, said the impact of loneliness during the pandemic has been “damaging” for a lot of people.
She added: “You do desperately miss children and grandchildren, whom I used to see on a very regular basis. It’s a huge loss in my life but people of my age have lived through worse.
“I know how important a phone call is – we have to keep these conversations going.”
Experts have called for robust monitoring to assess how altering the coronavirus vaccine dose schedule affects the effectiveness of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
The British Society for Immunology said that while it would prefer the original dosing schedules, as tested in clinical trials, be followed, it accepted the rationale for the change.
Experts advising the Government, including the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the focus should be on giving at-risk people the first dose of whichever vaccine they receive, rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible.
This now means the second dose of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will be within 12 weeks of the first.