The central government on Monday told states and Union territories to administer the two doses of the Covishield vaccine against the coronavirus disease in a gap of four to eight weeks, instead of the earlier prescribed interval of four to six weeks.
“Keeping the existing scientific evidence in view, it appears that protection is enhanced if the second dose of COVISHIELD is administered between 6-8 weeks, but not later than stipulated period of 8 weeks,” the Union ministry of health and family welfare said in a statement.
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Here’s everything you need to know about Covishield dosage:
1. The announcement on Monday came after the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and subsequently National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) discussed the time period needed for the second dose of the vaccine following “emerging scientific evidence” and recommended a gap of six to eight weeks.
2. The health ministry also clarified that the decision of revised time interval between two doses is applicable only to Covishield, the made-in-India version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca AZD1222 vaccine, and not to Covaxin, the indigenously developed shot.
3. Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to the chief secretaries of states and Union territories telling them that the health ministry has accepted the recommendations of NTAGI and NEGVAC. The ministry thereafter advised the states and UTs to ensure the administration of the second dose of Covishield within the stipulated time interval of four to eight weeks after the first dose.
4. Bhushan urged the states and UTs to instruct the concerned officials to take necessary steps to widely disseminate the message of revised dosing interval amongst programme managers, vaccinators, and recipients of the Oxford vaccine and ensure adherence to the revised gap, the ministry said.
5. The move will enable hospitals and clinics administering the jabs to out more first doses to people instead of remaining cautious about stocking adequate supplies for second doses for the time being. This implies that the new practice may help cover more people during the ongoing second phase of the immunisation drive.
6. The decision to increase will benefit the programme in the long run, experts have said. “It is possible (there will be better protection) based on immunogenicity and UK trial efficacy data. The US data indicates good protection with shorter intervals, so real-world monitoring will show how much extending the gap matters,” Dr Gagandeep Kang, one of India’s top vaccine experts, told HT.
7. UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had in December first recommended the delay in administering second doses of AZD1222. It came after experts cited data and pointed towards an urgency to speed up first shots.