The Centre is considering reducing the gap between two Covishield doses for those aged 45 years and older, once the vaccine's availability picks up.
This comes amid growing criticism over the Centre's current decision to set a 12-16 weeks gap between two Covishield doses, taken to tackle vaccine shortage and "without much scientific backing", Mint reported.
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India (NTAGI), which is set to meet next week, has indicated that it will decide on the dosage interval in the next 15-30 days after reviewing the scientific data collected by it.
"We have gathered data on the impact of vaccines and their dosage interval on different age groups and from different regions. In two to four weeks, we may decide on reducing dosage interval of Covishield, especially for those above 45 years and elderly based on final scientific evidence," said N K Arora, chairperson, NTAGI.
He added that even a single dose of Covishield has shown a strong immune response in scientific studies.
NTAGI had earlier recommended conducting random trials of varying dosage interval of Covishield and other vaccines and asked the Serum Institute of India (SII), the manufacturer of Covishield, to study the effects of varying gaps between vaccines.
India and UK are the biggest users of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (Covishield in India, with the latter having a 4-8 weeks gap between doses. India began with a 4 week interval but later extended the gap to 4-8 weeks based on available evidence at that time. It further expanded the gap to 12-14 weeks.
Arora said the earlier decision of 4 weeks was based on the bridging trial data available then. He added that the increase in gap between two doses was based on studies that showed an increase in the gap led to higher efficacy.
However, the government drew criticism for increasing the dosage interval as there was a shortage of vaccines in the country and the decision was seen as a move to gain time to procure more doses.
According to the health ministry and information provided by SII, the monthly production capacity of Covishield vaccine is expected to be increased from 110 million doses to more than 120 million by the end of the year.
"We do have enough doses and should cover the whole eligible population, but we don't have spare doses. We will take a decision based on scientific evidence," Arora said.
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