Amid rising cases and the possibility of another nationwide lockdown we have a new COVID-19 vaccination update. The Centre has increased the interval between two Covishield doses to up to 8 weeks. On Monday, the Centre issued new guidelines for the appropriate dosage of Covishield, produced by Serum Institute of India taking recommendations from the NTAGI (National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization) and the NEGVAC (National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration).

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued a statement saying, “In view of the emerging scientific evidence, the interval between two doses of a specific Covid-19 vaccine i.e. Covishield, has been revisited by National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and subsequently by National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) in its 20th meeting. During this meeting the recommendation has been revised to provide 2nd dose of Covishield at 4-8 weeks’ interval after the 1st dose, instead of earlier practiced interval of 4-6 weeks.”

Additionally, the MoHFW also reaffirmed that the decision to change time interval between 2 Covishield doses is applicable only to the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield. The revision does not apply to the Bharat Biotech and ICMR’s Covaxin.

Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, announced the Ministry’s recommendation to all the chief secretaries of Indian States and Union Territories. The letter sent by the Union Health secretary read, “Government of India has accepted the recommendations of NTAGI and NEGVAC and has thereafter advised the States and UTs to ensure the administration of 2nd dose of Covishield to beneficiaries within this stipulated time interval of 4-8 weeks after 1st dose.”

The letter also added, “Keeping the existing scientific evidence in view, it appears that protection is enhanced if the second dose of Covishield is administered between 6-8 weeks, but not later than stipulated period of 8 weeks.”

Mr. Bhushan also asked the states and union territories to make sure that necessary steps are taken to spread the message of the revised guideline of dosing interval amongst all stakeholders like program managers, vaccinators, and the recipients of the vaccine as well. He also urged states to ensure proper adherence to the revised guidelines for maximum vaccine efficacy.

These guidelines come amid a rising concern over the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. Several countries in Europe halted the vaccination drives where the AstraZeneca vaccines were administered. This halt came when a debate sparked when a small subset of people developed blood clots after getting vaccinated from the AstraZeneca vaccine. On Sunday, AstraZeneca announced that its COVID-19 vaccine developed in association by Oxford, demonstrated a 100% efficacy against COVID-19 infection. Moreover, the company also assured that the vaccine was safe and not associated with risk of blood clot.

Also read: AstraZeneca finds no blood clot risk from its COVID-19 vaccine

In India, AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria also assured the Indian masses that the AstraZeneca vaccine had not raised any red flags related to blood clotting. After the nation saw the COVID-19 curve fall steadily during November-December, the cases after January 2021 have seeing a sharp rise. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat are the usual suspects and have been contributing the most in the daily active cases rise. On Sunday, the nation reported its highest one-day increase in new cases since November at 47,009. This took the total tally to 1,16,46,254 cases with 1,60,006 people dead. When it comes to the vaccination, the so far 4,12,95,916 people have been inoculated.