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COVID-19 Vaccine | Gap between two Covishield doses extended to 12-16 weeks: Union Health Ministry

The suggestion to increase the gap between two Covishield doses was made by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI).

May 13, 2021 / 05:25 PM IST
A vial of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is produced in India and marketed as Covishield (Image: Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

A vial of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is produced in India and marketed as Covishield (Image: Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

The Centre on May 13 accepted the recommendation made by an expert panel to increase the gap between two Covishield vaccine doses to 12-16 weeks.

The two jabs of the Serum Institute of India (SII)-manufactured vaccine were earlier administered at a gap of six-to-eight weeks.

The increase in dosage interval was suggested by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) to the Centre's COVID-19 Working Group, claiming that it would provide "better results".

Based on the available real-life evidences, particularly from the UK, the COVID-19 Working Group agreed for increasing the interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of Covishield vaccine, the Union Health Ministry stated in an official release.

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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 recommendation of COVID-19 Working Group - to increase the Covishield dose interval gap - was accepted by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), the top government advisory body, on May 12. Subsequently, the Union Health Ministry also gave its nod.

"The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has accepted the recommendation of the COVID Working Group for extension of the gap between the first and second doses of Covishield vaccine to 12 -16 weeks," the official release stated.

The COVID-19 Working Group, however, has not recommended any change in interval of Covaxin vaccine doses which are administered at a gap of four to six weeks.

Notably, Covaxin and Covishield are the two vaccines being currently administered to beneficiaries in India. The dose interval gap for the latter was increased from 28 days to six-to-eight weeks in March, based on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO). With the fresh revision, it has now been further extended to 12-16 weeks.

The decision to increase the gap also comes amid reports of vaccine shortages in a number of states. Maharashtra, the state worst-affected by the second pandemic wave, announced on May 11 that it would be prioritising the second doses for 45-plus age group by temporarily pausing the immunisation drive for 18-44 age group.

The extension in dose interval gap is expected to beneficial for India on two fronts - it can reduce the stress on state governments as it provides more time to procure the vaccine for second dose, and would also provide enhanced immunity, as claimed by the experts' panel.

The NTAGI's suggestion to increase the gap interval also comes a couple of months after a study, published in The Lancet in March, claimed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine - known as Covishield in India - can provide 81.3 percent efficacy if doses are administered at 12 weeks apart.
Moneycontrol News
first published: May 13, 2021 04:44 pm

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