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Karnataka: Expert committee tells state to push for shorter Covishield dosage interval

The committee has sought the shortening of the span of dosages to broaden the spread of vaccination as preparation for a possible third wave caused by any variants of the virus.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: September 24, 2021 7:55:59 am
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A technical advisory committee of the Karnataka government on matters of Covid-19 pandemic has asked the State to write to the Centre requesting to reduce the gap between doses of the Covishield vaccine from 84 days to around a month, similar to when the vaccine was first introduced in January this year.

The committee has sought the shortening of the span of dosages to broaden the spread of vaccination as preparation for a possible third wave caused by any variants of the virus.

“We had a meeting on Sunday and we told the government to write to the Centre to reduce the gap between the first and second dose of Covishield. It is primarily because the vaccine supplies are good now and we have to keep in mind a possible third wave if a new variant emerges. It is safer to have good vaccine coverage in preparation for such a situation,” said Dr MK Sudarshan, a retired professor of community medicine and chairman of the technical advisory committee.

“Earlier the gap between doses was only one month and some groups of people like students who had to travel abroad were also vaccinated with Covishield with an interval of one month,” he said.

According to nephrologist Dr Sudarshan Ballal, a member of the Covid-19 expert committee in Karnataka, the committee has noted that an interval of four weeks was “good enough for immunity to develop” among Covishield beneficiaries. “With the government aiming to vaccinate the maximum population with both the doses, it seems imperative to accelerate the pace of vaccinations. Vaccination is the key to keep the spread of Covid-19 in check as well,” he said.

A total of 1.54 crore people in Karnataka out of a total population of over six crore have received both doses of vaccines as of September 22 while 3.8 crore have received their first dose. The Karnataka government wants to complete vaccinating the entire eligible population in the next 100 days.

While the test positivity rate (TPR) is below one in cities like Bengaluru – which bore the brunt of the second wave of the pandemic – there has been a small spike in reporting of Covid-19 linked deaths over a seven-day period from September 14 to 20 in the city, according to data from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

There have been 44 Covid-19 deaths recorded in the September 14-20 period, pushing case fatality rate up to 2.02 percent. The 44 deaths reported in the last week is the highest in recent days – since the end of July when 52 deaths were recorded and CFR was at 1.77 percent. The CFR has crossed the 2 percent mark for the first time since July in the city.

Dr B K Vijendra, the chief health officer of the BBMP, said the spike in deaths was on account of the addition of a backlog of Covid-19 deaths to the fatality list in the last week. A total of 389 cases and eight deaths were reported in the BBMP report issued for September 21. The TPR in the city stood at 0.58 percent and has been consistently below one percent since August following the peak of nearly 40 percent positivity in May.

The Karnataka government is expected to hold a meeting of the technical experts and a group of ministers on the pandemic over the weekend to consider several demands including the reopening of cinema theatres and primary schools. “Opening of cinemas is more pressing. The opening of primary schools is yet to be approached,” the chairman of the technical advisory committee said.

With the TPR among middle-school and high-school students, which have opened up on a staggered basis since August 23, being as low as 0.09 percent, there has been a push to reopen primary schools (classes 1 to 5) from some experts but the matter is yet to be considered by the technical advisory committee and the government.

“It is a fact that the pandemic is not going to end completely in a month or two and school students should be allowed to attend offline classes at least now. With staggered sessions held in well-ventilated classrooms and students encouraged to wash hands frequently, schools can function safely,” Dr Sudarshan Ballal said. “With this and a strong system of vigilance and surveillance in place, the state government can permit schools to reopen for all,” he said.

The expert committee has also asked state officials to step up vigil on finding out if new variants of the virus are emerging by increasing the genomic surveillance of samples collected from people who are testing positive for the virus. Currently the Delta variant remains predominant with 1653 samples showing the variant while Delta sub lineage AY.4 is second with reports in 202 samples.

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