The country’s top body on vaccination has recommended that a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine Covishield can be given eight to 16 weeks after the first dose, PTI reported on Sunday. Currently, the recommended gap between two doses is 12 to 16 weeks.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has made the recommendation based on “recent global scientific evidence derived from programmatic data”, an unidentified official told the agency.

The official said that reducing the gap would allow six to seven crore people who have not yet taken their second dose to do so faster, in the context of rising coronavirus cases in many countries.

“Also when the second dose of Covishield is given eight weeks onwards, the antibody response generated is almost similar when administered at an interval of 12 to 16 weeks,” the official added, according to The Hindu.

While the technical advisory group has made the recommendation, the government will take the final decision in this regard, the official said.

The NTAGI, however, has not recommended any change in the gap between two doses of Bharat BioTech’s coronavirus vaccine Covaxin. The second dose of Covaxin is administered 28 days after the first one.

On January 27, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that India’s drug regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has granted regular market approval to Covishield and Covaxin.

Both vaccines have been available in India since January last year under an emergency use authorisation. An emergency use authorisation is granted during public health emergencies, based on results of clinical trials.

As per the CoWin dashboard on Monday morning, a total of 1,81,15,83,790 coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the country till now. Out of these, 1,50,24,28,692, or 82.93% doses, were of the Covishield vaccine.

Changes in break between doses

At the beginning of India’s coronavirus vaccination drive in January 2021, the gap between two doses of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield was four to six weeks, which was later changed to six to eight weeks that March. On May 13, the Union health ministry had again increased the break between doses to 12 weeks to 16 weeks.

On August 25, a single judge of the Kerala High Court had asked the Centre to state whether the 84-day gap was on account of efficacy or availability of the vaccines. In response, the Centre had said that the gap was on account of efficacy, and was based on a recommendation from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

The counsel for the Union government had told the court that the time interval was based on a scientific study and that it was necessary for the vaccine’s effectiveness.