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12-16 Week Gap Between Covishield Doses, Recommends Government Panel

The Covishield vaccine was developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University (File)

New Delhi:

The gap between two doses of the Covishield COVID-19 vaccine can be increased to 12-16 weeks, a government panel recommended Thursday. No changes were suggested in dosage interval for Covaxin, the second of two vaccines in use in India at this time, which remains at four to six weeks.

The panel – the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group – also said pregnant women could choose their vaccine and that lactating women would be eligible any time after delivery.

The NTAGI also advised those with proven SARS-CoV2 illnesses (the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, among others) should defer vaccination till six months after recovery.

These recommendations will be sent to NEGVA – the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration – for approval before the changes and suggestions are implemented.

This is the second time in three months Covishield dosage intervals have been widened; in March states and UTs were told to increase the gap from 28 days to six-eight weeks “for better results”.

Changes to dosage intervals for Covishield – the name under which the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine is produced and sold in India – comes amid an acute shortage of doses as the manufacturer – Serum Institute of India – struggles to keep pace with demand.

India is struggling to contain a devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths, with daily numbers now over three lakh for more than 21 consecutive days. The flood of cases has brought the country’s healthcare system to its knees, and stressed the need for rapid vaccination.

The national vaccination drive began on January 16 and over 17.5 crore doses have been administered so far, but vaccine coverage is still less than 2.5 per cent of the population.

With manufacturers Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech (makers of Covaxin) still struggling to match demand, states have been forced to look abroad for doses.

A number of them, including national capital Delhi and Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka – three of the worst-affected – have floated global tenders for direct import of vaccines.

Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech have submitted to the Centre their production plan for the next four months, informing they can ramp it up to 10 crore and 7.8 crore doses respectively by August, official sources said on Wednesday.

syndicated from NDTV

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