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Dr Fauci: India’s decision to extend gap between Covishield doses is reasonable

Dr Anthony Fauci said the Indian government's decision to increase the gap between Covishield doses was unlikely to have a negative effect on vaccine efficacy.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
May 14, 2021 12:24:12 pm
Dr Anthony FauciWhite House's chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci (File photo/Reuters)

The Indian government’s decision to extend the duration between the first and second dose of the Covishield vaccine is a “reasonable approach”, the United States’ top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said in an interview to news agency ANI. Fauci said the government’s move would help ensure that more people receive at least one dose of the vaccine.

“When you are in a very difficult situation, the way you are in India, you have to try and figure out ways to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as you can, so I believe that it is a reasonable approach to do,” Fauci told ANI. “It is unlikely that a long delay would have a negative effect on vaccine efficacy.”

This comes after the Centre on Thursday announced that it was extending the interval between two doses of the Covishield vaccine from six-eight weeks to 12-16 weeks, citing “real-life evidence” from the UK. Covishield accounts for 90 per cent of the 17.8 crore vaccine doses administered so far.

According to Fauci, India should collaborate with other countries to help ramp up its own vaccine capabilities. Calling India one of the best vaccine producers in the world, Fauci said it was important for the country to “use some resources for your people”.

“It’s a very very large country with a population of about 1.4 billion people. You only have a couple of percentage of the people who are fully vaccinated and over about 10 per cent or so have had at least one dose so you’ve got to work out arrangements with other countries, other companies at the same time as ramping up your own capability of making vaccines because as you know, India is one of the best if not the biggest vaccine producer in the world,” Dr Fauci told ANI.

With Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine likely to be rolled out as early as next week, Dr Fauci said the vaccine “seems to be quite efficacious, at a high level of close to 90 per cent or so”. He urged rich countries and countries with the capability of making and distributing vaccines to act on their “moral responsibility” to assist poorer countries that are struggling to inoculate their population.

For over a month now, India has been grappling with an aggressive second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which has overwhelmed its already-feeble healthcare system and claimed thousands of lives. Fauci recommended the country rope in the services of the Indian Armed Forces in its fight against Covid-19.

“You can use the military sometimes to get things done quickly that you otherwise in the private sector would not be able to, for example, I know that there’s a shortage of hospital beds right now that people who need to be in a hospital or not getting into a hospital because of the shortage of the beds, you can get the military to put up field hospitals, the same way they would during time of war, that could serve as a substitute for the classic hospital.” Dr Fauci told ANI.

Addressing the issue of travelling amidst the second wave, the infectious disease expert said that resumption of travel to India is unlikely and would be difficult given the high level of infection in the country.

On Thursday, India laid out a vaccine roadmap for the rest of the year. Over two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines could become available for India between August and December this year, according to estimates given by vaccine manufacturers, the government said. Meanwhile, the government said global manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have indicated that they would be able to open discussions only in “Q3, 2021”.

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