Serum Institute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla has hailed the government decision to increase the gap between two Covishield doses to 12-16 weeks from the current gap of 6-8 weeks.
The health ministry on Thursday accepted the recommendations of the Covid working group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) to administer the second jab after 12-16 weeks of the first one.
Union cabinet secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a circular issued on Wednesday said the interval between two doses of specified Covid-19 vaccine, i.e Covishield, has been revised by NTAGI and subsequently by the NEGVAC in its meeting on May 12.
As per the recommendations, the second dose of Covishield should be administered at 12-16 week intervals after the first dose. Adar Poonawalla has said this decision will benefit from both the efficacy and the immunogenicity standpoint.
"This is beneficial both from the efficacy and the immunogenicity standpoint. This is a very good move because this is based on data that the government received based on which they made a good scientific decision to increase the gap," Adar Poonawalla told NDTV.
Additionally, the top government panels had suggested that pregnant women should be offered the choice of vaccine and lactating women can be inoculated any time after delivery. Currently, coronavirus patients, who have recovered are eligible to take the vaccines. The immunisation panel has recommended that COVID-19 patients should defer vaccination for six months after recovery.
However, the 12-16 week rule is not applicable for Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. "This decision of revised time interval between two doses applies only to Covishield and not to Covaxin," the order said.
This is the second time in three months the interval between Covishield doses has been altered. In March, states were asked to increase the gap from 28 days to six to eight weeks for better results. However, it had then said that "protection was enhanced if the second dose of Covishield was administered between six and eight weeks but not later than that".