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Has Covishield dose interval extended due to vaccine crunch? 'Saddened' by such allegations, says Dr VK Paul

Dr VK Paul's response to the controversy comes two days after the Centre, based on an expert panel's recommendation, increased the gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks.

May 15, 2021 / 05:27 PM IST
Dr VK Paul, Member (health), Niti Aayog (File image: ANI)

Dr VK Paul, Member (health), Niti Aayog (File image: ANI)

The decision to increase the Covishield dose interval has nothing to do with vaccine crunch and such allegations are "saddening", said Dr VK Paul, member of Niti Aayog, the government's topmost think-tank, on May 15.

Dr Paul's response to the controversy comes two days after the Centre, based on an expert panel's recommendation, increased the gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks.

A number of critics questioned the move, asking whether the second dose has been delayed due to the shortage in COVID-19 vaccine supply.

Such narratives are "saddening", Dr Paul said. "I am pleading to all of you with folded hands to put these controversies to rest," Hindustan Times quoted him as saying.

Also Read | COVID-19 2nd Wave: Vaccine shortage shatters students' plans to study abroad

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The decision was based on the recommendation of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), a government advisory group that works independently, the Niti Aayog member pointed out.

The recommendation was tabled before the Dr NK Arora-chaired COVID-19 Working Group - which agreed with it based on the available real-life evidence in the UK.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, is already being administered in the UK at an interval of three months or 12 weeks. The increase in dosage interval led to an increase in efficacy, based on the real-life data emerging from the country, Dr Paul said.

The NTAGI's suggestion to increase the gap interval also came a couple of months after a study, published in The Lancet in March, claimed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (manufactured and marketed as Covishield in India) can provide 81.3 percent efficacy if doses are administered at 12 weeks apart.

While the Indian government has increased the Covishield dose interval gap, the second vaccine being currently administered - Covaxin - would continue to be administered at a gap of four to six weeks.
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