NEW DELHI - India is likely to allow a smaller gap between AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses for inoculations being carried out privately, in line with a court order, two sources told Reuters.
Private hospitals and clinics will give their paying patients the option to receive their second dose of the vaccine four weeks after the first, down from between 12 and 16 weeks currently, they said.
Earlier this month, the high court in the southern state of Kerala ordered changes in the health ministry's vaccine-booking platform to give people paying for vaccination this choice, which is already being offered to those flying abroad.
"Since the high court has given a judgement, it will have to be done," said one of the sources. "For the government's programme, the ideal gap remains 12 weeks."
India doubled the gap between the AstraZeneca vaccine's two doses in May to make sure more people were inoculated with at least one dose when supplies were scarce at the height of the country's outbreak this year.
AstraZeneca recommends the second dose of its COVID-19 vaccine be taken four weeks after the first shot, but says on its website there is a "trend of increased efficacy with a longer than 4 week dosing interval". The World Health Organization recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks.
The sources, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, could not say when the changes will be implemented.
The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
India's total vaccine output has trebled since May to 300 million doses a month. Less than a quarter of the production is sold by private hospitals while the rest is provided by the government free of cost.
India has administered at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in 65% of its 944 million adults and two doses in 22% of adults.
(Reporting by Neha Arora and Krishna N. Das; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa) ((Krishna.Das@tr.com; https://twitter.com/krishnadas56 ;))