On Covishield dose gap controversy, Health Minister’s clarification

The decision to increase the gap between two doses of the Covishield vaccine was “transparent” and “based on scientific data”, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan tweeted Wednesday.

This is amid concern the intervals were widened – from six-eight weeks to 12-16 – without the support of the scientific group the government said had recommended the decision with “no dissenting voice”. “The decision to increase the gap between administering two doses of Covishield has been taken in a transparent manner based on scientific data. India has a robust mechanism to evaluate data. It is unfortunate that such an important issue is being politicised!” the Health Minister tweeted. He attached a statement from the government that extensively quoted Dr NK Arora, the chief of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), on the subject. In the statement Dr Arora was quoted citing a study by UK health regulator Public Health England that “showed vaccine efficacy varied between 65 per cent – 88 per cent when interval is 12 weeks”.

“This was the basis on which they overcame the outbreak due to the ‘alpha’ variant… because the interval they kept was 12 weeks. We also thought that this is a good idea… scientific reasons to show that when interval is increased adenovector vaccines give better response,” he was quoted.