‘Covishield as Much as 20 Times More Effective Booster than Covaxin’: Gagandeep Kang

In an interview with The wireGagandeep Kang has revealed for the first time the findings of the booster study conducted by Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, which was presented to the government in mid-March but has not yet been made public.

Kang, a professor of virology at the CMC, has decided to publish the findings in a paper next week, but was happy to confirm the findings when quoted to her by Karan Thapar in the interview. They show that Covishield is a much more effective booster after two Covaxin shots than the other way around. However, the government does not allow heterologous vaccines i.e. mix and match. Those who have had Covaxin for two doses should have Covaxin as the third dose, while those who have had Covishield as the first two doses should have this as the third dose.

In a 22-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Kang, a member of Britain’s prestigious Royal Society, confirmed the following results:

– A third dose of Covaxin increases the antibodies 6 times, but from a very low base.
– A third dose of Covishield increases the antibodies 6.8 fold, but from a much higher base.
– A Covaxin booster after two Covishield doses increases the antibodies only 2.5 times.
– A Covishield booster after two doses of Covaxin increases the antibodies 58 times.

Kang, a member of the government’s Covid-19 working group, added that the CMC study only tested antibody responses and not T-cell responses. She also pointed out that no tests have been done with protein-based vaccines as boosters. The tests were limited to the two most commonly used vaccines in India, Covishield and Covaxin.

Kang was asked by The wire on the current increase in business – a 60% increase in the past week – and whether India is entering a fourth wave or is there another explanation. She replied: “It really depends on what you really call a wave. What is your description of a wave, how high and over what period? There will always be ups and downs.”

Kang said, “If there’s a new wave, it’s probably caused by a new variant and not the versions of a variant we have now.”

She said the time had come to redefine what we mean by golf, by focusing not on tests and test results, but on how many serious illnesses and deaths occur. She added: “In that sense, this is not a wave.”

The virology professor said the reason why Maharashtra, Kerala and Delhi always seem to be the first to shoot is (a) because they host a lot of international travelers, but what is now more important as an explanation is the level of systematic testing that has been carried out in these states , which more accurately reflects the actual COVID-19 reality than the rest of the country.

Kang said the current increase in the number of cases is more likely caused by BA.4 and BA.5. She accepts South African studies that say BA.4 and BA.5 are more contagious than the original Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2, but the illness they cause is not serious and hospitalization and serious illness have not increased. The figures in the newspapers in Delhi confirm this. The same goes for the figures for Mumbai.

Speaking about the recommendation of the NTAGI’s permanent technical subcommittee to narrow the gap between the second dose and the booster dose to 6 months from the current 9, Kang noted a tone of skepticism. She said: “We have no evidence that the gap has to be 9, 6, 3 or 12 months”. She added: “Because we don’t have data on vaccine effectiveness, we can set any time limit we want…there’s no evidence that would allow us to set a specific date for boosters.” She confirmed when asked if this means that the Subcommittee was just plucking months out of thin air without any scientific or research-based background to do so.

The above is a paraphrased precis from Gagandeep Kang’s interview with Karan Thapar. Only the most important points are highlighted. Watch the full video for a full understanding of all the different points Professor Kang has made.

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