The much-awaited outcome of the meeting of the National technical advisory group on immunization to decide on the spacing between the Covishield vaccine doses is finally out: There is going to be no shift in the spacing between the two amounts. While the official statement on this is still awaited, Financial Express Online learns reliably from those in the know of the developments within the government that the meeting of the technical advisory group has concluded, and the consensus seems in favor of keeping to the current practice of administering the two doses with a spacing of four to six weeks. Covishield is the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India.
Financial Express Online was told: “We have very closely reviewed the World Health Organisation (WHO) interim advisory in the light of the data seen by the WHO on increasing the COVID vaccine dose interval to between eight and 12 weeks from the current practice of administering it between four and six weeks. We also held multiple expert group meetings with divided opinions. Still, the consensus was that a shortfall of vaccines largely drives the data emerging from the western countries on shifting the dose spacing.”
In addition, there was also a view emerging that in the current context, there are risks in extending the gap between vaccine doses primarily because people are moving around with sub-optimal immunity and increasingly getting exposed to the risk of getting infected during this period. Secondly, if there are sustained sub-optimal immune pressures in the community, the chance of the emergence of variant strains also increases. Though, the view on the spacing between the vaccine doses is not cast in stone and could change, say three months down the road, depending on data.
Financial Express Online also learns that the WHO advice was based on scientific evidence of the efficacy data from the Astra Zeneca trial where people were vaccinated in four groups, including intervals of four to six weeks and eight to 12 weeks, and concluded that going beyond eight weeks increases immunogenicity. This was also supported by neutralizing antibody data.