By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The plan was to drive a relative to get the second vaccine, but due to the snow and ice, the relative didn’t want to go, and it was delayed for 2 and ½ weeks.  A colleague at work stated (incorrectly, as it turns out) that the second dose will be ineffective by then.   This background provided the impetus for the following opinion.


In light of current stocks of the COVID vaccines, we should be changing our policy of holding over vaccines from double doses to fewer people to single doses to more people.  The current policy in light of the just released data about how effective the first dose actually is – is insanity.  Beyond insanity – it is murderous and unethical.

Right now, only some 60 percent of available vaccines have actually been used.  The reason is that we are holding back so that we can have enough of a supply for scheduled second doses.  But the current data shows that when we delay the second dose, the first dose works even better.  The first dose is 91% effective at 4 weeks after it is given.

So now we have a question:  Until the cavalry of huge amounts of vaccines arrive, should we be giving 100,000 people a 95% effective vaccine regimen or 200,000 people a 91% effective regimen?

Before we get to the halacha, let’s do the math.

Let’s assume that 1 out of 200 people who get COVID 19 will die from it.  And let’s assume that over the next six months, 20% of the 200,000 will get COVID.  So that means 40,000 people will get it.

Of those 40,000 people if no one was given the vaccine – 200 will die.

If 100,000 were given the two dose vaccine regimen, 100 people will die of the other 100,000 that were not given the vaccines.  And of those that were given the two doses, 5 will die.  Total deaths would be 105.

If 200,000 were given the one dose (and 40,000 would have gotten COVID and 1 in 200 would die) then we have only 18 deaths since it is 91 percent effective.

It is a no brainer.


This is with the Pfizer vaccine.  According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine article by Sadoff, the J&J Vaccine data is even better.  We must really move on this data.  Of course, when feasible, people should get the second dose regardless – because it will bring up their chance of survival by no small amount.


The issue at stake here is not a medical one – it is a mathematical one and the experts that should be consulted here are the actuaries and mathematicians – not the doctors.  The actual vaccine data has been suppressed until recently.  We should be reaching out to our politicians, the CDC and the FDA to change the recommendations now.

If any reader doubts this – please consult with a mathematician or an actuary.  Some doctors who are statistically trained will certainly agree.

From a halachic point of view, the situation is analogous to that discussed by Rav Yoseph Teumim in his Pri Magaddim 228:1 – that when there is a vaddai mesukan and a safek mesukan and there is not enough medinie for both – we administer it to the vaddai mesukan.

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