New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Union Health Ministry on Thursday extended the time gap between two doses of Covishield COVID-19 vaccine from six to eight weeks to 12 to 16 weeks. However, it clarified that there will be no change in the time gap between two Covaxin doses.

This comes after the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) recommended increasing the gap to increase the efficacy of the vaccine based on "real-life evidence", particularly from the United Kingdom (UK).

The Health Ministry, while addressing a virtual presser, also agreed to share the formula of the Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine, which has been developed by the Bharat Biotech, with other pharmaceutical companies in India, saying it is in touch with the firms.

"Not every company has a BSL3 lab where the live virus is inactivated. We give an open invitation to companies who want to do this. Companies that want to manufacture Covaxin, should do it together. Government will assist so that capacity is increased," NITI Aayog's Dr VK Paul was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Speaking about the alleged shortage of vaccines, the Health Ministry said that any vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) can come to India, adding that the Centre will grant import license within two to three days.

It also said that the Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in India and will be available in the market from next week, adding that its production in the country will begin from July.

"Department of Biotechnology, other departments concerned, MEA have been in touch with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson from beginning. They were officially asked if they'd like to send doses to or manufacture in India, we'll find partners and assist," Dr Paul said, as reported by ANI. 

The Health Ministry also dismissed the myths about the efficacy of the vaccines against new strains of the infection. It also said that around 18 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the country so far.

"We are happy to report that 1/3rd of 45 and above are protected. 45 and above age group contributes to 88 per cent of deaths. So you can imagine, how much dent it would have made to reduce the risk of death of this population," ANI quoted Dr Paul as saying.

It also said that there has been a decline in daily COVID-19 cases over the past three days. However, it expressed concerns over the surge in 10 states where the positivity rate is 25 per cent or more.

The Health Ministry also said that 12 states have more than one lakh active COVID-19 cases, while 24 states have more than 15 per cent case positivity rate.

India has been reeling under a catastrophic second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the country added 3.62 lakh new infections, taking the COVID-19 tally of cases to 2.37 crore while the death toll rose to 2.58 lakh with 4,120 daily fatalities. The active cases have increased to 37.10 lakh comprising 15.65 per cent of the total infections.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma