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India mulls deferring vaccines for COVID-19 patients



India’s federal health ministry has announced deferring the COVID-19 vaccination by three months in four specific situations including patients recovering from the COVID-19 infection, officials said Thursday.

The ministry said individuals with lab tests proven that they have tested positive for the virus should defer their vaccination by three months after recovery.

The ministry said COVID-19 patients who had been given anti-SARS-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma during the COVID-19 treatment shall also defer their vaccination by three months from the date of discharge from the hospital.

Previous government guidelines had recommended deferment for only four to eight weeks after recovery for both categories.

The ministry also said individuals who had received at least the first dose and got COVID-19 infection before the completion of the second dose should be deferred by three months after clinical recovery from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the ministry said persons with any other serious general illness requiring hospitalisation or ICU care should also wait for four to eight weeks before getting the vaccine.

Officials said the recommendations were actually made by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) and the health ministry has accepted them.

“These recommendations have been based on the evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and emerging global scientific evidence and experience,’’ the health ministry said.

Meanwhile, the ministry has recommended COVID-19 vaccination for all lactating women.

“Regarding COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant women, the matter is under discussion and further deliberation by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI),’’ the ministry said.

The federal ministry has written to states to direct the concerned officials to take note of these recommendations and undertake necessary actions for their effective implementation.

The third phase of COVID-19 vaccinations started for people who are 18 years and above on May 1, which has yet to start in many places or is going on at a slower pace in wake of the severe shortage of vaccines.

Reports pouring in from many states said people are being turned away at the designated centers because of the shortage of vaccines.

The government increased the gap between two doses of the Covishield vaccine to 12 to 16 weeks from four to eight weeks.

This is the second time in three months that the dosage intervals have been widened.

India is witnessing resurgence in COVID-19 cases, with 276,110 new cases and 3,874 deaths reported on Thursday.

Halima Sheji

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