The Indian government has doubled the gap between the two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine without the consent of the scientific team, which it said advised to add, three members of the advisory body told Reuters.
The Ministry of Health announced on May 13 the decision to change the gap from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks, at a time when stockpiles of shot were in short supply, and infections were on the rise across the country.
The ministry noted that the widening gap was advised by the National Technical Immunization Advisory Group (NTAGI), based in real life mainly on UK evidence.
However, NTAGI scientists, who are classified by the government as three of the 14 “core members”, said the body did not have enough data to make such a recommendation.
Former director of the RA National Institute of State Epidemiology MD Gupta said the NTAGI supports increasing the dose break to 8-12 weeks, a gap suggested by the World Health Organization.
But he added that the group has no data on what effect the gap could have in 12 weeks.
“Eight to 12 weeks is something we all accept, 12 to 16 weeks is something the government has come up with,” he added.
“Everything can be fine, it can not be. We have no information about that. “
This was responded to by NTAGI partner Matthew Vargeze, who said that the group’s offer was only for 8-12 weeks.
The Ministry of Health, citing the head of the NTAGI working group of COVID-19, said that the decision on dosage is based on scientific evidence.
“There were no dissenting voices among NTAGI members,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Ministry: announcement: On May 13, 2012, it said it had accepted the NTAGI COVID Working Group’s 12-16-week offer, as well as a group of mostly government officials working with the vaccine administration, known as NEGVAC.
Government health officials told a news conference on May 15 that the gap was not widened by a vaccine shortage, but was a “scientific decision.”
JP Muliyil, a member of the seven-member COVID Working Group, said there had been discussions within the NTAGI about increasing the dose of the vaccine, but that the body had not recommended it for 12-16 weeks.
“That exact number was not quoted,” he said without elaborating.
The head of the COVID working group, L NK Arora, declined to comment to Reuters on his proposals, but said all of his decisions were generally made by NTAGI.
A NEGVAC spokesman said it “respects NTAGI decisions, uses them for our work”, declining to elaborate.
Real data released by South Korea earlier this month showed that a single dose of AstraZeneca և Pfizer vaccine is 86.6% effective in preventing infections in people 60 years of age and older.
Mulil said it boosts confidence within the advisory body that delaying a second shot will not hurt.
The AstraZeneca vaccine accounts for almost 90% of the 257.5 million doses of the vaccine administered in India.
The controversy over doses came amid criticism from some scientists that the government was slow to respond to the new version of the virus, which led to an increase in infections between April and May.
The government has denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating “Similar, baseless allegations concerning state-run laboratories have been made more than once.
Shahid Ame Amil, an Indian virologist who recently suspended the government version of the virus after criticizing New Delhi for responding to the epidemic, said authorities needed to clarify their position on the reasons for the decision to double the dosing gap.
“In a situation where we have a way of spreading concern, we really need to vaccinate people on a large scale to make sure they are protected,” he added.