What should be the ideal gap between two doses of Covid-19 vaccines?

India is slowly but steadily looking at vaccination doses for each and everyone as universal vaccination against Covid-19 is the only way to beat the pandemic. However, as the guidelines keep getting updated, many have doubts regarding what is a good/ideal gap between two doses of the vaccines. Here’s what to understand.

The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) issued interim recommendations for use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine (AZD1222) which is manufactured in India under the name Covishield in April 2021. It stated that the recommended dosage given intramuscularly (0.5ml each) is to be at an interval of 8 to 12 weeks. “Longer dose intervals within the 8 to 12 weeks range are associated with greater vaccine efficacy,” said Dr Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO-Bhatia Hospital Mumbai.

Presently, as per Government of India’s SOP, based on the recommendations by National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NÉGVAC), the schedule of Covishield vaccine under National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy is to administer the second dose at 12-16 weeks interval (i.e. after 84 days), after administration of first dose.

Dr Abhishek Subhash, consultant, internal medicine, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai said that while “ideal vaccine gap” should be 4-6 weeks, for Covishield, it has been made minimum 12 weeks. “However, the revised gap is only applicable for Covishield, and not for Bharat Biotech Covaxin, for which the 4-6 week gap still applies,” saidDr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.

The June 2021 SOP further stated that the period for Covaxin has “remained the same” i.e. 4-6 weeks and hence there was no need for any special dispensation for second dose of Covaxin.

Dr Boudhankar, however, was of the opinion that a 3-month dose interval might have advantages over a programme with a short dose interval for roll-out of a pandemic vaccine to protect the largest number of individuals in the population as early as possible when supplies are scarce, while also improving protection after receiving a second dose.

Doctors advise people to continue following Covid protocols even after getting vaccinated. (Source: Pixabay)

What are the exceptions?

The Centre has allowed students, and athletes who have to undertake foreign travel for education or tournaments to receive the second dose within a gap of 28 days, as per Government of India’s SOP {on Administration of Second Dose of Covishield Vaccine Prior to Prescribed Time Interval (after 28 days but before 84 days) to persons intending to undertake international travel for education purpose, for joining employment in foreign countries and for India’s contingent to Tokyo Olympics}.

What about other vaccines available in India?

The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two doses at a gap of 21 days while Moderna vaccine is administered at a gap of 28 days.

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