The country’s vaccination campaign has slowed despite amassing record stockpiles of vaccine, Health Ministry data showed on Monday, as authorities maintain a wider-than-usual gap between doses in a strategy that has boosted coverage.
Domestic production of the AstraZeneca vaccine has more than tripled since May, when a supply shortage prompted the country to double the period between doses to between 12 and 16 weeks.
That gap, exceeding the eight to 12 weeks recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), has allowed the government to give at least one vaccine dose to 74% of the country’s more than 94 crore adults, with just 30% getting the full complement of two.
Over the past few days, daily stocks of all COVID-19 vaccines have exceeded 10 crore doses, the Health Ministry figures show.
In contrast, daily vaccinations have dropped to an average of 50 lakh doses this month and even fewer in the past week, off a daily peak of 2.5 crore last month.
The Health Ministry said it followed recommendations from a group of experts in making any changes to dosage, arrived at by weighing up “scientific and empirical” evidence.
“NTAGI is actively considering the matter of dose interval between Covishield doses,” its spokesperson said, referring to the Ministry’s National Technical Advisory Group onImmunisation (NTAGI).
However, vaccine supply alone should not determine the gap, said Chandrakant Lahariya, a physician and epidemiologist in New Delhi.
“There is no scientific rationale for reducing the gap,” Mr. Lahariya added. “In fact, retaining this gap has the possibility of giving stronger protection and longer-lasting immunity.”
A 12-week gap was more logical and scientific for vaccinations drive in the country, where some studies have shown many people already had antibodies against COVID-19 infection, Mr. Lahariya said.