India defends 16-week gap for COVID booster shots

India's government is defending its decision to increase the gap between the two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to up to 16 weeks.

That's twice its former length of time, and comes after three scientific advisers said there was no agreement on such a wide interval.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that the government had increased the gap last month without the approval of the scientific group that it says recommended the move, citing three members the body.

It's known as the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

In multiple statements on Wednesday (16 June), the government said the interval was increased based on scientific evidence.

AstraZeneca accounts for nearly 90% of the doses administered in India.

And, according to the minutes of meeting by the advisory group held on May 28, data from Britain showed 65% to 88% protection after the first dose, if the gap was up to 12 weeks.

But NTAGI members had told Reuters that the group had no data concerning the effects of a gap beyond that time.

A member of the COVID working group told Reuters on Tuesday there had been discussions within the NTAGI on increasing the vaccine dosage interval

-- but that the body had not specifically recommended 12-16 weeks.

The NTAGI working group said the decision to expand the gap had been made to provide "flexibility" for those who may not be able to get the second dose at 12 weeks.

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