Reuters on Tuesday reported that three Indian scientists of an advisory group on Covid-19 vaccination did not back the Union Government’s decision last month to double the interval between two doses of the Covishield shot.
Last month, the health ministry increased the gap between two doses of the vaccine from the recommended interval of six to eight weeks to 12-16 weeks.
The Centre had said then that the decision was recommended by the country’s Covid Working Group and was backed by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
But according to the report, three NTAGI scientists out of 14 “core members”, said the body did not have enough data to make such a recommendation.
M.D. Gupte, a former director of the state-run National Institute of Epidemiology, said the NTAGI had backed increasing the dosing interval to 8-12 weeks – the gap advised by the World Health Organization. But he added that the group had no data concerning the effects of a gap beyond 12 weeks.
This was echoed by his NTAGI colleague Mathew Varghese, who said the group’s recommendation was only for 8-12 weeks.
J.P. Muliyil, a member of the seven-strong COVID working group, said there had been discussions within the NTAGI on increasing the vaccine dosage interval but that the body had not recommended 12-16 weeks.
N.K. Arora, the COVID working group head, declined to comment to Reuters on its recommendations but said all its decisions were taken collectively by the NTAGI at large.
Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist who recently quit a government panel on virus variants after criticising New Delhi over its response to the pandemic, said the authorities should clarify their position on the reasons for the decision to double the gap between doses.