A government panel on Thursday recommended increasing the interval between two doses of Covishield to 12 to 16 weeks from four to eight weeks earlier, a source in the know said.

The changes suggested by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization are only applicable on Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and not on Covaxin, the source said. The recommendations have to be accepted by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19, headed by Ni Aayog member V.K. Paul, before it gets a final approval from the health ministry.

While the need for the changes have not yet been clarified, the Union health ministry is expected to release a statement on the matter later today.

Clinical trial in the UK conducted by developers of the vaccine, AstraZeneca and University of Oxford, showed that the vaccine’s efficacy improved substantially when the interval was increased. The UK regulator and European Medicines Agency advise 4-12 weeks as the interval, while the World Health Organization has recommended 8-12 weeks interval between doses.

No regulator before this has used an interval of more than 12 weeks.

The changes come on the back of a shortage in vaccine supply as production of Covishield and Bharat Biotech International’s Covaxin together have so far not met the staggering demand, especially after India opened up vaccination for all adults this month, compared with only high priority groups—healthcare and front line workers and people of age 45 years and above—till last month.

Currently, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute together manufacture about 70-80 million doses of covid-19 vaccines, but last month more than 80 million doses were administered in high priority groups alone, using up earlier inventory.

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