The random changes to the increase in gap between two vaccine shots is generating a certain amount of emotional conflict for everyone. Those who have taken the second shot immediately after completing the 28 days as recommended in the earlier days are worried whether their body holds any kind of virus protection mechanism, or were their two doses in vain. Those who are yet to take the second dose – are worrying whether they should rush after the second dose after the 28 day period or wait till the 8th week or the 12th or 16th week as is being suggested now. Those who have not taken the vaccine are considering whether to take even the first shot or not.
COVID Vaccine administration in India began on 16 January with COVISHIELD (Serum Institute of India) vaccines and COVAXIN (Bharat Biotech). The latter came in a bit a later and was subsequently absent, with COVISHIELD being the regular vaccine administered to the population of first phase recipients, which included the front line health workers and other important Corona Warriors.
This was when SII told Indians that the second dose of the COVISHIELD vaccine needs to be administered after a minimum of 28 days and a maximum of 42 days after the first dose. This was when the vaccine was being administered for first phase candidates. For COVAXI N the recommended second dosage was 28 days immediately after the first.
After a month, the vaccine administration was extended to the elderly, when all people above the age of 60 years were included in the beneficiaries list – March 1, 2021. It was around this time that the pressure to include beneficiaries in the younger age group of 45-59 was being pushed from various quarters.
24 hours before announcing that vaccination for 45+ will begin from April 1, it was announced that the second dose of the vaccine can be taken between 28-56 days (for COVISHIELD – because that was in short supply), with a recommendation that the more the gap, the better will be the immunogenic response. The recommended dosage window for COVAXIN was not changed. Was this suggested to ensure that the population yet to be vaccinated with the first dose is taken care of first and those who are awaiting the second dose after completing 28 days, be coaxed to wait longer?
With the sudden spurt in cases from the second week of April, the central government was under pressure to include the under 45 age group in the vaccination drive, which it did abruptly, without analyzing the logistics and availability and comfortably passed on the entire burden on the states. Now we have a situation where the COWIN site, Aarogya Setu App and Umang App are beating Netflix and Hotstar.
Slots are not available as the states are not getting their share of doses, not to be blamed on the manufacturers, but the entire onus of this should be on the central government for being so frivolous in exporting India’s vaccine production in the earlier days, when the infection levels had dipped to near single digits.
Now, with no other face saving option in sight, the government has suddenly announced that research has demonstrated that the second dose of the COVISHIELD vaccine can be taken between 12-16 weeks, permitting the immediate vaccination deficit to spread over a longer period and garner some breathing space for the government and the manufacturers.
This kind of reckless change in recommendations for a matter as sensitive and health defining as vaccination cannot be treated with such callousness.