An Approval That Suggests Big Changes In Booster Policy Are Likely

The vaccines are expected to be widely available soon at hospitals and clinics registered with the government portal CoWIN.

Over 158 crore doses of vaccines have been given in India so far.

New Delhi:

Covaxin and Covishield could be more widely available with a new government approval that also suggests changes in rules for booster doses. Both vaccines have been cleared for "full use" by an expert panel of the central drug authority, a year after they were given emergency approval to fight Covid.

The vaccines are expected to be widely available soon at hospitals and clinics registered with the government portal CoWIN.

The development comes as the government deliberates over the booster dose policy. Precautionary third doses of vaccines -- announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month -- are now being given to health and frontline workers and adults above 60 years of age, dealing with illnesses. The recommended gap between the second and the third dose is currently nine months.

Today's recommendations by the expert panel of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) have been sent to the top drug regulator DGCI.

"SEC of CDSCO has recommended for the upgrade of Covishield and Covaxin status from restricted use in emergency situations to grant of new drug permission with conditions in the adult population, DCGI will evaluate the recommendations and give its decision," the regulatory body tweeted.

A few weeks back, Aadar Poonawalla's Serum Institute of India had urged the centre to give market approval to its Covishield, underlining that over a billion doses of the vaccine have been given across the world and it's safe. Covishield accounts for nearly 90 per cent of vaccinations in the country.

Sources say 300 million doses of the vaccine are presently stocked with the SII.

Bharat Biotech too had sought a similar prescription-based nod for the homegrown Covaxin.

With over 158 crore doses given so far in India, a market approval means that booster shots would soon be available for those in need, apart from the frontline workers and senior citizens.

A key question is whether the interval between the second and third dose can be brought down to six months, which is largely being followed across the world as the antibody count starts reducing in this period.

Also, the government's policy does not allow mix-and-match of vaccines.

This morning, India logged 2.82 lakh fresh cases - over 18 lakh cases have been registered in the last one week in an Omicron-driven surge. The big cities, however, are now witnessing a drop in daily cases.

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