The decision was taken following the Union Health Ministry’s orders to increase the gap between Covishield doses.

A doctor holding the vials of CovishieldPTI
news Vaccination Saturday, May 15, 2021 - 09:55

The Telangana government has stopped the special drive for second dose vaccination for two days — Saturday and Sunday — citing the Union government’s recent decision to increase the gap between the first and second dose of Covishield. The drive will resume from Monday, Telangana’s Director of Public Health Dr Srinivasa Rao told the media. “The vaccination campaign will be resumed on Monday...for which details of beneficiaries and modality involved will be intimated shortly,” he said in a statement.

The Union government on Thursday announced that it will be extending the gap between two doses of Covishield from 4-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks. No change in the interval for Covaxin has been made. The decision was taken following a recommendation made by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI). NTAGI also recommended that those who have recovered from COVID-19 should take the vaccine six months post-recovery. 

“Based on the available real-life evidence, particularly from the 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 had said. 

Like several states, owing to the vaccine shortage, Telangana has prioritised the second dose vaccination, for the age group of 45 and above. The drive began on May 8. Due to a vaccine shortage, the first dose of vaccination has been suspended. 

Meanwhile, the BJP has criticised the state government’s decision to prioritise second dose vaccination, calling their move driven out of “sheer ignorance” and “misinformation.”

“It is a wrong decision with serious implications, which can steeply increase COVID19 infection and related deaths in the state. No state in India and no country in the world will adopt such a decision. Top medical journals like Lancet are suggesting with credible data that the first dose of vaccination will secure individuals from COVID-19 ranging from 5 to 15 weeks, depending on the type of vaccine one has taken. Some could be immuno-active even beyond the above period,” said BJP state spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao in a statement on Friday.

He claimed that those who have already taken the first dose are mostly secured by the immunogenicity of the vaccine and are less risk-prone. The second dose only provides a protracted safety shield, he said. 

“Those who did not get even their first dose are prone to higher risk. The goal of any state government should be to vaccinate most of its population with the first dose, not to deprive them with ignorant and lopsided priority to wait till they administer the second dose for those who has taken the first. It is beyond foolish to not have this basic scientific information, when taking such big decisions impacting crores of people's lives,” Krishna Saagar said.