Kerala High Court Sets Aside Order On Covishield Dosage Intervals

The Kerala High Court had said that an individual was "entitled to make a choice between early protection and better protection" in when to get the second dose

Kerala High Court Sets Aside Order On Covishield Dosage Intervals

Covishield is the Covid vaccine made in India by the Serum Institute (File)

Thiruvananthapuram:

The Kerala High Court has set aside its September order that directed the centre to allow a second dose of Covishield (for those eligible) after a four-week gap instead of the currently mandated 84 days.

The court reversed its earlier decision, saying vaccinations (and dosage intervals) are part of policy decisions taken by the central government, and it cannot interfere in this space.

Passed by a single-judge bench, the earlier order had said that an individual covered the Covid vaccination drive was "entitled to make a choice between early protection and better protection".

In effect, then, the minimum interval between two Covishield doses remains at 84 days, or 12 weeks.

Days later the centre appealed to the High Court order against its order, saying that if the decision was not set aside it could derail the vaccination policy of the entire country.

The recommended (minimum) interval between two doses of Covishield (India's version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine) was four to six weeks when vaccinations began in January.

This was subsequently increased to six to eight weeks and, in May, extended again to 12 to 16 weeks. The centre's rationale at the time was "real life evidence from the UK" regarding the vaccine's efficacy.

The gap for Bharat Biotech's Covaxin has remained unchanged.

The earlier order, which also directed the centre to modify the CoWIN app to allow for reduced interval, was after a petition by two clothing companies with a combined 10,000+ employees

The companies said they bought vaccines for Rs 52.3 lakh for their workers and their families (without waiting for the government), but were unable to proceed with a second dose because of the need to register the jabs on CoWIN. The companies also pointed out the centre had relaxed dosage intervals for certain groups and also offered the "privilege" to government officials.

This was at a time when Kerala was battling a huge surge in cases, with the state government recording nearly 30,000 new cases per day. Since then, fortunately, there has been a steady decline; today the southern state reported around 5,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours.

The decision to extend Covishield dosage intervals had raised eyebrows, with many then linking it to a massive shortage of vaccines while the second Covid wave was at its peak.

Some members of the Covid task force suggested then that decision was not unanimous.

Since then vaccine supply has increased considerably and the rate of vaccinations has improved as well, with the centre rolling out a door-to-door inoculation programme.

Yesterday Union Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said over 125 crore doses have been administered so far and that around 38 per cent of India's adult population had received both jabs.

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