On the extended dose interval recommended by the Covid Working Group, Paul said, “This decision is part of a periodical review. It is a dynamic situation from a scientific point of view. It is a science-based decision. We got the confidence to make this decision on the basis of real life experience. Please have faith in our scientific processes.” Besides the UK, some other countries including Canada have an extended gap between the two dozes of the AstraZeneca jab.
The decision has been taken after consultation with experts including the World Health Organisation and Oxford University. The national technical advisory group on immunization in its meeting also made a similar recommendation on the vaccine
being manufactured by Serum Institute.
No change has been recommended in the interval of Bharat Biotech-made Covaxin doses.
“Breakthrough infections (infections after vaccination) were increasing and protection was the only purpose of the vaccine which is when the dose interval was increased to six to eight weeks,” Paul said referring to an earlier extension in the time period between two doses of the Covishield vaccine.
India has so far given the first dose to one-third of its 45 plus population. Several states including Ladakh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh have performed better than the national average while many are below this benchmark.
Also, half of those eligible for the second dose have received the jab, according to government data. West Bengal, Sikkim, Tripura, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh,Chhattisgarh and Odisha are among states which have given the second dose to 70 per cent of the eligible population.
While the government estimates that the supply of vaccines will cross 2 billion by end of the year through eight different vaccines, it is hopeful that foreign brands such as Pfizer and Moderna would also be available in India. “Adult population is around 950 million and with these doses everyone will be able to get the vaccine. There should be no doubt,” Paul said.
He said the government had been in constant touch with the global vaccine makers. Pointing out that the companies are assessing the availability in the third quarter of 2021, Paul said, “We invite them to manufacture here and have technology transfer. We will support them in every possible way.”
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