Rahul Gandhi questions Centre’s decision to increase Covishield dose gap; Health Ministry responds

India needs quick & complete vaccination- not BJP’s usual brand of lies, said Rahul Gandhi.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today slammed the Centre for increasing the gap between the two Covishield doses, alleging it was done without the consent of the panel formed to analyse the decision. The former Congress president made the claim based on several media reports that stated the same. Rahul Gandhi said that while India needs quick vaccination, the Centre’s attempts to save the PM’s “fake” image are facilitating the spread of the virus endangering people’s lives. “India needs quick & complete vaccination- not BJP’s usual brand of lies & rhyming slogans to cover-up vaccine shortage caused by Modi Govt’s inaction. GOI’s constant attempts to save PM’s fake image are facilitating the virus & costing people’s lives,” said Rahul.

However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare claimed that the decision was based on scientific reasons and was taken unanimously by the panel. “There have been some media reports regarding an increase in the gap between two doses of COVISHIELD vaccine from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks, suggesting dissent among the technical experts regarding the decision. It may be noted that the decision of increasing the gap is based on the scientific reason regarding the behaviour of adenovector vaccines and has been discussed thoroughly in meetings of COVID-19 Working Group and Standing Technical Sub-Committee (STSC) of NTAGI with no dissent from any member,” said the ministry.

The Centre said that 22nd meeting of COVID-19 Working Group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) was held on 10th May 2021 and Executive Director of INCLEN Dr. N K Arora, NTAGI Member and Director of JIPMER Puducherry Dr. Rakesh Aggarwal, NTAGI Member and Professor of CMC Vellore Dr. Gagandeep Kang, NTAGI Member and Director of NII Dr. Amulya Panda, NTAGI Member and Retd. Principal of CMC Dr. J P Muliyil, Group Leader of ICGEB Dr. Navin Khanna, DCGI of CDSCO Dr. V G Somani and Advisor, RCH, MoHFW Dr. Pradeep Haldar were the members of the COVID-19 Working Group.

“This COVID-19 Working Group considered a proposal for a change in dose interval for COVISHIELD used under the National Vaccination Policy. It recommended that ‘based on the real-life evidence particularly from United Kingdom (UK), the COVID-19 Working Group agreed for increasing the dosing interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of COVISHIELD Vaccine’,” it said.

The ministry also clarified that the recommendation of COVID-19 Working Group was further taken up for discussion in the 31st meeting of Standing Technical Sub-Committee (STSC) of NTAGI which was held on 13th May 2021 under the joint chairpersonship of Secretary, Department of Biotechnology and Secretary, DHR & DG, ICMR. The ministry also said that the STSC of NTAGI recommended increasing the dosing interval to a minimum of three months between two doses of the Covishield vaccine.

On May 13, the health ministry had increased the gap between the two doses of Covishield to 12-16 weeks from 6-8 weeks earlier citing the recommendation of the expert panel.

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