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Two doses of different COVID-19 vaccines not a cause of concern : NITI Aayog member VK Paul

Paul, who is also head of India’s COVID-19 task force, insisted that the protocol of administering two doses of the same vaccine should be followed by healthcare workers.

May 27, 2021 / 06:29 PM IST
File image of Dr VK Paul (Source: ANI)

File image of Dr VK Paul (Source: ANI)

Any person getting different vaccines in the two slotted doses is not a cause of concern for that individual, NITI Aayog member VK Paul said on May 27.

Paul, who is also head of India’s COVID-19 task force, however, said that healthcare workers should ensure that the protocol of administering two doses of the same vaccine should be followed.

“Our protocol is clear that we are giving two doses of the same vaccine. What happened in this case ( UP) should be investigated. But I can say that if someone gets the second dose of a different vaccine, any significant effects are unlikely,” Paul said during the routine Health Ministry presser.

Paul was responding to a question about recent incident of villagers in Uttar Pradesh’s Siddharthnagar district, who were given a dose of the Covishield  vaccine for the first dose and Covaxin for the second dose at a government hospital.

The Uttar Pradesh incident has not reportedly led to adverse health effects in those who received the vaccine, according to state government officials.  The people living in the Barhni village near Nepal border received Covishield for their first dose at a primary healthcare centre (PHC) in the first week of April. On May 14, when they returned for the second dose, they were administered Covaxin, as per reports.

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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READ: COVID-19 vaccination | Centre extended gap between doses of Covishield, not Covaxin ― here's why

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the district Sandip Chaudhary said on May 26 that he has ordered an inquiry into the matter and assured stern action against those found responsible for this negligence.

“In fact, there is a scientific narrative going on that if you get different vaccine doses, immunity improves. The point that I am making is that although a firm scientific opinion on this may have to wait a little more scrutiny but even if it has happened, it should not be a cause of concern for that individual,” he said appealing to health care workers to ensure same vaccine is given in the second dose as was given in the first as that is the protocol that should be followed.

Also, read: COVID-19 vaccination drive | Uttar Pradesh vs Maharashtra vaccine race heats up

Covishield and Covaxin are the two vaccines being administered in India in two doses. In its advisories, the Union Health Ministry has cautioned against breaking the protocol of using same vaccine in two doses.

There have been discussions about administering different vaccines in two doses world over. According to a Reuters report published on May 24, many countries are considering using different vaccines for the two doses, amid supply delays. However, they are expected to proceed by conducting clinical trials and letting national drug regulators weigh in – not by deploying the strategy right away on the ground, the report said.

Another Reuters report published on May 18 said that preliminary findings of  Spanish study on mixing COVID-19 vaccines has found that giving a dose of Pfizer's drug to people who already received a first shot of AstraZeneca vaccine is highly safe and effective.

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The Centre said last week that it is scientifically possible that an individual gets the first dose of one vaccine and the second dose of another vaccine, but it will take time to decide whether it can be recommended.

Gulam Jeelani
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 11 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.