Coronavirus Live News Updates: Walk-in vaccination allowed for all adults; Punjab, Jharkhand ease curbs

09:43 (IST)

Coronavirus latest news update: Vaccine policy

Health Ministry defends decision to increase gap in doses

Questions were raised on the government's 13 May decision to increase the gap between two Covishield does as England and Northern Ireland have decided to reduce the gap for ages 40 and above. The government, however, has defended its decision stating it was taken after considering scientific evidence.

09:32 (IST)

Coronavirus latest news update: Vaccine policy

UK cuts gap between vaccine doses again, spurring rethink in India

The UK, where the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine which predominates Indian vaccination drive was developed, has decided to reduce by half the gap between vaccine doses for the second time since India has stretched the time frame to its limit amid a shortage in supplies. 

On 13 May, India had increased the gap between two doses from a minimum of six to 12 weeks for people who get the Covishield vaccine, citing better efficacy data from the UK. Two days later, UK itself reduced the gap to eight weeks from 12 for people over the age of 50, citing the more serious threat from the Delta variant, which incidentally was first found in India and is assumed to be one of the triggers behind the second deadly wave. 

On Monday, UK yet again slashed the gap between the two doses of vaccines for over 40s from 12 weeks to 8 weeks so that people get vaccinated sooner. 

Coronavirus LATEST News Updates: Any adult can walk in to the nearest vaccination centre to get registered on the CoWIN digital platform and be inoculated against COVID-19, the Union Health Ministry said.

It is not mandatory to pre-register online or book an appointment to get the vaccine, the government said, as it seeks to increase the pace of vaccinations and tackle the 'vaccine hesitancy' it has blamed for the slow rollout of vaccines in parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the first death due to vaccination was reported in India, even as India said the benefits of inoculation far exceed its harms. The government panel studying COVID vaccine's severe adverse effects said the death occurred due to anaphylaxis following inoculation.

The decision regarding enhancing interval between two doses of Covishield was based on scientific evidence and taken in a transparent manner, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization Chair NK Arora said.

The government had on 13 May said it has accepted the COVID-19 Working Group's recommendation and extended the gap between the two doses of the Covishield vaccine from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks. "Based on the available real-life evidence, particularly from the UK, the Covid-19 Working Group agreed for increasing the dosing interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of Covishield vaccine. No change in the interval of Covaxin vaccine doses was recommended," the ministry had said in a statement.

As the Covid positivity rate dropped to two percent in Punjab, the state government eased restrictions, allowing restaurants, cinema halls and gyms to operate at 50 percent capacity beginning Wednesday.

Under fresh guidelines, which will be in effect till 25 June, daily night curfew will be in place from 8 pm to 5 am and weekend curfew from 8 pm on Saturday up to 5 am on Monday across the state, according to a government statement.

All restaurants, including those in hotels, cafes, coffee shops, fast food outlets, dhabas, and cinemas and gyms at maximum 50 percent capacity, subject to all their employees having received at least one dose of Covid vaccine.

Air-conditioned buses can also ply with 50 percent occupation. Bars, pubs and ''ahatas'' (taverns) shall, however, continue to remain closed, the statement said. All educational institutions will also continue to be closed.