Managing Vaccine Shortage by Proper Gap Between Vaccinations

Synopsis: To achieve universal vaccination, India needs to work on a few out-of-the-box solutions for vaccine shortage. For example, increasing the gap between vaccination effectively.

Introduction: 

The New Vaccine Policy aims to vaccinate people above 18 years. The Policy came into force on May 1. But a few states have postponed the vaccination program citing a shortage of the vaccine.

Vaccine shortage:
  • According to the Co-WIN portal, India is producing roughly 2 million vaccines a day. However, the number of vaccines administered daily is roughly 2.3 million to 2.5 million. So, technically the production capacity falls below even the daily requirement.
  • As of April 29, India’s 9.1 % of the population received one dose of vaccine. Similarly, only 1.9 % of the population received both doses.
  • Since India announced the new vaccination policy, the demand for vaccines has increased three times, but the supply of vaccines remains the same.
How India expected to tackle the vaccine shortage?
  • At present, India is expecting a few million doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik.
  • Similarly, Covishield vaccine maker Serum Institute of India also going to improve their scale-up production to 100 million doses per month soon.
  • Also, the Covaxin manufacturer Bharat Biotech is expecting to scale up the production to 50-60 million doses a month.

Despite these developments, the next few month’s production is unlikely to go beyond 150 million doses a month.

Interval between two doses:
  • Covishield: Phase 3 trials of the Covishield vaccine found out that the second dose offered after 12 weeks of the first dose will provide the best result and protection. So the best option to take the second dose of vaccine is 12 weeks for Covishield.
    • However, due to urgency, second doses administered after six to eight weeks also improved efficacy over time.
  • Covaxin: The second dose of Covaxin can be taken four to six weeks after the first.
Present condition of vaccination in India:

At present India’s routine immunisation programmes for children are administered at a four-week gap in India. But globally they follow an eight-week gap. The reason for the lower gap between vaccination in India is due to,

  • Operational reasons: India’s distribution of vaccines in two phases with a long gap might create a delay in vaccination.
  • Low coverage: If the gap between vaccination is increased then people might not vaccinate at the correct time.
Suggestions to avoid vaccine shortage:
  • India should increase the gap for Covishield to 12 weeks. This is because India needs to control the progress of the pandemic. The Covishield trials have shown that the higher the gap, the greater the proven efficacy. Furthermore, it has other advantages as well. Such as,
    • Increasing the gap between vaccination will give some time to manufacturers to produce the vaccine.
    • It allows more people to take at least one shot of the vaccine. Immunologically, it is understood that even one dose can activate the immune system. Here, the vaccine will make the natural infection a sort of booster infection and protect people for a longer time than the non-vaccinated individual.
  • Like the US, India also needs to ensure evolving guidelines on vaccination. This will ensure more vaccination of single dose.
    • The United States’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) initially came up with a vaccination gap of three-month. Later the CDC reduced this gap to one month.

Source: The Hindu

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