Many Indians unlikely to be fully vaccinated by end-2021 despite ample COVID shots

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Tens of millions of Indian adults are unlikely to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021, despite ample supplies, due to an unusually large gap between the doses of the most widely-used vaccine and growing complacency as cases fall.

The locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccine which is known as Covishield has a 12 to 16 week gap between doses, in contrast to the 8 to 12 week gap recommended by the World Health Organization.

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Based on current trends, the Covishield dosage gap means more than 200 million people will be eligible for their second dose only in late January even if all of them were to get their first shot on Friday.

Meanwhile, people are growing increasingly complacent about getting inoculated as infections and deaths have fallen sharply in the past month. The government wants to vaccinate all of the country’s 944 million adults by December but some 230 million of them have yet to get even a single dose.

“It is likely that the milestone may be missed by several weeks,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“Reducing Covishield dosage interval is certainly a possibility to consider.”

While the health ministry did not respond to requests for comment on Friday, it told Reuters on Monday that its immunization experts were “actively considering the matter of dose interval between Covishield doses”.

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