The Health Ministry on Thursday has extended the interval gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine to 12 to16 weeks, from the current gap of four to eight weeks. This means that people who received Covishield can take the second dose 12 to 16 weeks after the first shot. This announcement comes hours after the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) recommended increasing the gap. This extension is appliable only to Serum Institute of India's Covishield vaccine, and not to Covaxin. No change in dosage interval for Covaxin was suggested by the panel.
"Based on the available real-life evidences, particularly from UK, the COVID-19 Working Group agreed for increasing the dosing interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of COVISHIELD vaccine. No change in interval of COVAXIN vaccine doses was recommended," the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said. "The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also accepted this recommendation of the COVID Working Group for extension of the gap between the first and second doses of COVISHIELD vaccine to 12 -16 weeks," it added.
Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonwalla has welcomed the move, calling it a good scientific decision by the government. Speaking to NDTV, he said, "This is beneficial from both the efficacy and immunogenicity standpoint.
The NTAGI on Thursday morning also suggested that pregnant women may be offered the choice to take any COVID-19 vaccine and that lactating women can be inoculated any time after delivery. The NTAGI has also recommended that those who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 should defer COVID-19 vaccination for six months after recovery.
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The recommendations had come amid several states reporting shortage of vaccines. Several states and UTs including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana have decided to opt for global tenders for procurement of anti-coronavirus shots with the domestic supply falling short to meet the rising demand.
In case of individuals who have received the first dose and before completion of the dosing schedule if they test positive for COVID-19, they should wait for 4-8 weeks after clinical recovery from the illness. Also, COVID-19 patients who have been given anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma may defer COVID-19 vaccination for three months from the day of discharge from hospital, the recommendations stated. Individuals having any other serious illness requiring hospitalisation or ICU care should also wait for 4-8 weeks before getting the next COVID vaccine, it added.
(With PTI inputs)