The central government has defended its decision to keep a long gap between two doses of Covishield.
As per Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, the decision to increase the gap between administering 2 doses of Covishield has been taken in a transparent manner based on scientific data. India, he said, has a robust mechanism to evaluate data.
World over, however, second shots were given sooner for adequate protection and some experts underlined the need to hurry it in the Indian context also, especially in view of the prevalent Delta variant.
Also, in clinical trials, two shots were supposed to be administered with a gap of four weeks. However, participants received vaccines at variable intervals of four to 12 weeks. When clinical trial data from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil was analysed, the vaccine efficacy was found to be 55% if two doses were administered at an interval of less than six weeks and around 80% if administered with a 12-week gap. However, when the findings from the phase 3 clinical trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the United States of America became available in March 2021, the efficacy at a four-week interval was found to be 76%. In such a scenario, the country must keep pace with the target.
One expects the government to be cogent to some recent studies which claimed that the single dose of Covishield gives only 33 percent protection as against 65 to 85 percent estimated earlier. So, the scientists are calling for reducing the gap between two doses. And this should be the case. More so, in the case of the elderly population.
The Jammu and Kashmir government meanwhile needs to ensure the first dose is administered to as many people as possible and that too with the degree of haste. There is a continuous need to educate people to reduce hesitancy towards vaccines. Target should be to increase the willingness of the people to get vaccinated. The numbers have been rising steadily but more in terms of awareness and stress on need to get vaccinated sooner for returning to normal must be continued with more vigour. At places, the participation in vaccination programmes has been lukewarm and the reasons for this need to be fixed. The administration has shown that it has enough wherewithals to meet any challenge and accelerate the daily vaccination rate. Clearly, there is a case for reaching out to people to quickly and increase vaccine uptake.