In the context of some news reports quoting recent studies that it would be better to shorten the gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine, in light of the Covid-19 variants in circulation, Dr VK Paul said there is a need to balance such concerns
The Centre on Friday informed that there is no need to panic on the need for an immediate change in the dosage interval of the Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, underlining that reducing the time gap requires proper scientific study in the Indian scenario.
In the context of some reports quoting recent studies that it would be better to shorten the gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine, in light of the Covid-19 variants in circulation, Dr VK Paul, member (Health) at NITI Aayog, said there is a need to balance such concerns.
Addressing a press briefing on Covid-19, Dr Paul said, "There is no need for any panic, suggesting need for immediate switchover or change in the gap between the doses. All these decisions must be taken very carefully. We must remember that when we increased the gap, we had to consider the risk posed by the virus to those who have received only one dose. But the counterpoint was that more people will then be able to get the first dose, thereby giving a reasonable degree of immunity to more people."
"We need to balance these concerns. So, please remember, that we need to necessarily have this debate and discourse in the public domain; however, the decision has to be taken by appropriate fora comprising eminent people who are knowledgeable about this," the NITI Aayog member added.
Paul said in the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), there are quite a few people who have been a part of WHO panels and committees and are globally renowned and recognised for their eminence. Moreover, NTAGI is regarded as a standard when it comes to global and national immunization programmes.
"So, please respect their decisions," he said.
'Need for due scientific process'
Welcoming a discourse on this topic, Paul highlighted the need for due scientific process in arriving at such decisions.
Dr Paul appealed to the public to respect the decision taken by NTAGI, a body of globally renowned experts.
Let the decision regarding dose interval be examined by NTAGI, according to due process. The UK must have adopted due process and examined data scientifically, to revise their previous decision regarding the gap. The UK had earlier kept the gap at 12 weeks, but as per data available to us, we did not consider it safe at that point, he said.
"So, let us entrust this to our scientific fora, they must be addressing it already. They will review it based on the pandemic situation in our country, depending on the extent of prevalence of the delta variant in our country and then take a comprehensive view. Whichever decision is taken by our scientific community, we will honour it," Paul stated.
For Delta variant, need shorter gap between vaccine doses
The Lancet journal in a new study says the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is far less effective against the Delta variant, which is dominant in India. The antibody response to variants is even lower in those who have received just one shot and a longer gap between doses may significantly reduce antibodies against the Delta variant, the study adds.
The recommendation is at odds with the Indian government's recent decision to increase the gap between two Covishield shots to 12 to 16 weeks from six-eight weeks.
The Lancet study supports current plans in Britain to reduce the dose gap between coronavirus vaccines as it was found that after just one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, people were less likely to develop antibody levels against the Delta variant compared to the previously dominant Alpha variant, first found in UK's Kent.
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