New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday approved extending the gap between the two doses of the Covishield vaccine from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks following a recommendation from a government panel, the Union health ministry said.
However, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) has suggested no change for the dosage interval for Covaxin, the ministry said.
"Based on the available real-life evidences, particularly from the UK, the COVID-19 Working Group agreed for increasing the dosing interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of Covishield vaccine. No change in interval of Covaxin vaccine doses was recommended," the ministry said.
The present gap between two doses of Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, is 6-8 weeks.
The Central government's move comes amid several states reporting shortage of vaccines.
Several states and UTs including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana have decided to opt for global tenders for procurement of anti-coronavirus shots with the domestic supply falling short to meet the rising demand.
This is the second time in the past few months that the interval between the two doses of Covishield has been increased. In March, the Union health ministry had asked states and UTs to increase the gap from 28 days to 6-8 weeks.
"The recommendation of the COVID-19 Working Group was accepted by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), headed by Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog, in its meeting on May 12, 2021," the ministry said.
The NTAGI has also stated that those having laboratory test proven SARS-CoV-2 illness should defer COVID-19 vaccination for six months after recovery, the sources said.
The panel also rejected the proposal for routinely screening all vaccine recipients with rapid antigen testing prior to COVID vaccination.
The NTAGI recommended that all pregnant women visiting for ante natal checkup may be informed about risks and benefits associated with Covishield and Covaxin. Based on the information provided, a pregnant woman may be offered the choice to take any of the COVID 19 vaccine.
An educational tool comprising information on risk of COVID 19 infection during pregnancy, benefits associated with the vaccination and rare complications associated with vaccines like thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (with Covishield) may be developed.
Also, all lactating women are eligible to receive the COVID 19 vaccines any time after delivery, the panel suggested.
According to the current vaccination protocol, pregnant and lactating women should not be administered the shots as they have not been part of any anti-coronavirus vaccine clinical trial so far.
In case of individuals who have received the first dose and before completion of the dosing schedule if they test positive for COVID-19, they should wait for 4-8 weeks after clinical recovery from the illness.
Also, COVID-19 patients who have been given anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma may defer COVID-19 vaccination for three months from the day of discharge from hospital, the recommendations stated.
Individuals having any other serious illness requiring hospitalisation or ICU care should also wait for 4-8 weeks before getting the next COVID vaccine, it added.