When to take Covid-19 vaccine 2nd dose? What to do if once infected? What experts recommend
The gap between the first dose and the second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine has become crucial in India as many beneficiaries are missing the date of the second dose because of the shortage of doses. On Thursday, the government expert panel recommended that the gap between the two doses of Covishield can be further extended to 12 to 16 weeks. These recommendations will be sent to the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration before the changes come to effect.
Here is all you need to know about the proposed changes:
1. When should you take the 2nd dose?
In general, a gap of a minimum of 28 days is suggested between two doses of Covid-19 vaccines. But for Covishield, the vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astrazeneca and produced in India by Pune's Serum Institute, the gap has been revised based on "emerging scientific evidence". When India started the vaccination drive in January, the recommended gap was four to six weeks. In March, the gap period was revised and extended to four to eight weeks. Now the expert group has again recommended widening the gap to 12 to 16 weeks. Once the recommendation is accepted, the Centre will inform the states and the UTs accordingly. Till then, the existing gap will continue to be followed.
2. Why does the gap matter?
Studies have revealed that Covishield works better when the two doses are spaced apart. The Lancet, in February, said, Covishield's effectiveness increases by over 26 per cent if the doses are spaced 12 or more weeks apart. Reports said the gap has been again revised based on practical evidence reported in the UK.
3. Why is the gap between the two doses of Covaxin not revised?
According to experts, Covaxin has been developed in a different way. It is an inactivated vaccine, which contains a "dead virus, incapable of infecting people but still able to instruct the immune system to mount a defensive action against an infection". There is no data on whether the effectiveness increases if the gap is widened as during the trial, everyone was given the second dose after 28 days. Hence, its two doses are given 28 days apart and no change has been suggested to this gap.
4. When to take the 1st dose if you have already been infected once?
According to the existing protocol, one can take the vaccine four to eight weeks after recovering from Covid-19. Under its new recommendations, the expert group has suggested that one can defer vaccination for six months after recovery. But it is applicable to only those having laboratory test proven SARS-CoV-2 illness. It is not clear what Covid suspect patients should do as doctors are starting treatment if the symptoms are present, without waiting for test results.
5. What to do if one gets infected after the first dose of the vaccine?
Such people should wait for 4-8 weeks after recovery from the illness for their second dose, the new recommendations of the expert panel said.
6. What if you miss the date of your second dose of vaccination because the vaccination centre has run out of stock?
Several doctors are of the opinion that a little delay in the second dose won't make much difference but it should not be skipped as both doses ensure full protection from the virus.
7. Can patients who have been treated with plasma take the vaccine? When should they take the 1st dose?
According to the government expert panel, those who have been treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma may defer their first dose for three months after getting discharged from the hospital.
(With PTI Inputs)