Jab gap related to efficacy, not availability: Govt to Kerala HC
The Union government on Thursday informed the Kerala high court that the 84-day gap between two doses of Covishield vaccine is related to efficacy and has nothing to do with shortage of doses.
On Tuesday, while hearing a petition filed by Kitex Group (a Kochi-based apparel making giant) to expedite the vaccine drive, Justice P B Suresh Kumar sought a clarification from the Union government whether the gap was necessary and if it was related to the efficacy or due to shortage of doses. The Centre’s counsel sought two days’ time to respond to the query.
On Thursday, the counsel for the Union government Daya Sindhu Sreehari informed the court that the gap between the two Covishield jabs was based on a scientific study and the gap was necessary for effectiveness of vaccine.
The central government, during the hearing, told the court that all the decisions regarding the vaccination programme are taken by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) and technical inputs are given by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).
It further said that “based on the recommendation of NEGVAC, the schedule of COVISHIELD vaccination, under the national COVID-19 programme, was to administer the second dose after 12 to 16 weeks. i.e. after 84 days from the first dose”.
“This provides the best protection against Covid-19,” the Centre claimed and added that the decision was taken based on efficacy and not availability of the vaccine.
kitex in its plea contended that it had vaccinated around 5000 of its work force with the first dose but unable to administer the second dose due to the prevailing restrictions. It sought judicial intervention to speed up the process in view of mounting cases in the state.
The UK started off with a gap of 12 weeks between two doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine which is made in India as Covishield by Serum Institute of India, but has progressively shortened this for vulnerable populations after it emerged that only two doses provided adequate protection against variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid.
The case is being heard against the backdrop of a flare-up of infections in the southern state, likely caused by Onam celebrations last week.
Kerala reported 31,455 cases on Wednesday with a test positivity rate of 19.03%, both highest in three months.The cases reported accounted for 70% of the national total on Wednesday.
“We expected a hike after Onam. A special drive is on to increase testing and vaccination. Since sero prevalence is very low in Kerala we have to find the infected and quarantine them at the earliest,” Kerala health minister Veena George said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, responding to another plea,the Union government informed the court that it has no plans for a third dose or a booster dose as of now. A resident of Kannur in north Kerala moved the court saying that he took two doses of Covaxin but since this vaccine was not recognised abroad he was unable to join work in Saudi Arabia. He sought the court’s help for a third dose of Covishield.
The Centre also said studies on mixing of vaccine doses were progressing and there was no plan for a third dose as of now.
Earlier this month, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) accepted a proposal that a research be conducted to analyse mixing a dose each of Covaxin and Covishield. “Permission has been granted for research study at CMC Vellore on mixing of vaccine doses,” Dr VK Paul, Niti Aayog said at a press briefing on August 11.