COVID vaccination: My travails over the second dose

COVISHIELD ADMINISTRATION: CITIZEN EXPERIENCE

Covid-19 Vaccine. Representational Image. Pic: Pixabay

On March 22nd, I opened the  Aarogya Setu app on my phone to book our appointment for the second or booster dose of the Covishield vaccine. My husband and I had had our first shot before noon on March 1st, when the union government rolled out the programme for senior citizens like us. We were told we could take the next shot after 28 days. A few days’ delay would not matter, added the doctor at the vaccination centre.

The earliest appointment I got (confirmed via SMS) at our preferred centre, Yashoda Multi Specialty Hospital, Kaushambi, Ghaziabad, where we had taken the first shot, was on March 31st. A few days earlier, the much respected Lancet had reported the findings of a study on Covishield — the vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca. It said the efficacy of the vaccine was maximum when the booster shot was given 12 weeks after the first. The issue came up at subsequent daily press briefings on COVID by the health ministry, but the government gave no clarification and hinted that they would conduct their own studies.

Many of us were concerned — should we go ahead with the 4-week gap? Or should we, on our own, go back only after 12 weeks? Our doctors had suggested that there was no harm in taking the booster after 28 days, and that we don’t have to delay it for 12 weeks.

I had another pressing reason for not delaying the booster shot. My desperate need to fly to Chennai to be by the side of my 86-year-old mother struggling to live, possibly waiting to see all her children who could not make the trip on account of the lockdown, flight restrictions, local COVID regulations and finally the vaccination. Like many others, I felt flying out a few days after the booster shot would be safe — for my very ill Amma and us.

Relieved that I did not have to change our March 31st appointment, I nervously booked flight tickets for Chennai for April 5th. That same evening, the government announced that people who had taken Covishield should have the second shot between 6 to 8 weeks! There was no communication on CoWin/Aarogya Setu/NHSMS that the appointments of the thousands lined up for the booster from March 28th onward were cancelled or would have to be made afresh!


Read more: COVID scenario: Latest trends across cities and coping strategies


Where are the vaccines?

There were the conspiracy theorists who smelt a shortage of vaccines — which senior cabinet ministers Prakash Javadekar and Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan denied. These ‘theorists’ felt the government had changed the vaccine schedule to manage the shortage. But confident that the government would not embark on vaccine diplomacy if it did not have enough for its citizens, we went to our vaccination centre at the appointed time. We were shown a government notification and turned back. The CoWin app would not allow our vaccination and we would not get the certificate, we were told.

A bit of pleading and arguing led to the doctor revealing that though they had paid in advance for the vaccines, they had not received supplies of Covishield for over a week. They not only had to turn back people who had an appointment, but could not give the first jab even to their own health workers who were initially reluctant, but now wanted to be vaccinated. “You can imagine my plight tomorrow, when people over 45 will be here,” said the hapless doctor. “Their numbers are way more than that of your category (60+) and I have to make them go back.”

I pleaded that I had a flight to take and had planned it such that I would be fully immunised before I leave. “There are people with tickets to the USA—at least you can take the vaccine in Chennai, they can’t get this in New York or LA,” the doctor responded, adding that even if they decided to do me the favour of giving me the jab without the certificate — as CoWin would not accept people till the sixth week — they could not, because they had no vaccine.

The same day, a friend in Bengaluru had an appointment for her booster. Her vaccination centre had called asking her to get an appointment for mid April. Since she knew the doctor at that centre, she learnt that there was a shortage, possibly because the government probably wanted to go with the new schedule, and send a different vaccine for the 45+ people.

Incidentally, the same day March 31st, a person in Chennai received the second shot of Covishield at a government centre, and was given  a letterhead with his name, the date of the first dose, date of the second, and the injection name: Covishield. On April 7th, six weeks after his first shot, he received a “final certificate” wherein the date of the second dose was mentioned as April 7! There was a batch number assigned to it. Was it the batch that was administered on April 7, or on March 31, when he was actually given the shot? It is not clear from the certificate that came with a false date.


Read more: The second wave of COVID: The how and the why


What’s all the fuss over a date, one might ask. It is important because the government has rescheduled the booster shots to a date 6-8 weeks from the first. It is important because the batch number in the certificate will become important for research and liability in case there is an adverse reaction. 

While the government continues to claim there is no shortage, the the maker of Covishield, Serum Institute of India, has distinctly mentioned shortage. SII CEO Adar Poonawala had told a news channel that the SII produces between 60 and 65 million doses per month presently, and has so far given around 100 million doses to the centre and exported 60 million. “The globe needs this vaccine… we are prioritising the needs of India (but) we are still short of being able to supply to every Indian,” Poonawalla said.

Says Prof Amod Gupta, former  Dean, PGI and director of the Advanced Eye Care Centre, PGI, Chandigarh: “There is nothing like charity for private organisations. Only the government can afford to do it. GOI needs to support the efforts of manufacturers of essential drugs and vaccines as a duty towards its citizens.”

Even as the campaign for vaccine for all gains momentum, there appears to be major discrepancies in the way the vaccine programme is being rolled out and the way its manufacture and distribution are being executed.

Also read:

About Vijaya Pushkarna 33 Articles
Vijaya Pushkarna is a journalist based in New Delhi. She was formerly Deputy Bureau Chief, Delhi at The Week.

15 Comments

  1. Atleast Lancet study has scientific basis, antibodies by first jab peak at 12 weeks. The GOI, as usual, has a knee jerk reaction and believe in only photoshoot for leader supremum. As far as vaccine shortage is considered, it was known right in the begining that manufacturing need to be ramp up to meet enormous amount for Indian population. But then who cares.

  2. Have doubts about the veracity of claims that shortage of vaccination was behind the revised duration guidelines for second dose of Covishield. I am also a senior citizen, got my first jab on 2nd March. Got an SMS from Govt reminding me of second dose just before 4 weeks period, which, as per revised guidelines, was due between 4 and 8 weeks from the first dose repeat ‘4 and 8 weeks’ and not just ‘4 weeks’ or ‘6 and 8 weeks’. Visited the centre, no one was being denied second dose of Covishield after 4 weeks. However, people there were found discussing about the benefits of postponing second dose for two weeks as per new findindgs as well as Govt’s revised guidelines in response thereto. Took advice seriously, came back and got my second jab on 13th April i. e. 42nd day from first jab. No shortage, no problems, only a conscious decision was behind taking it after 6 weeks.

    • I was turned back from two centers last week due to non-availability of covishield for my second dose. Was told to contact by phone this week. This is at Hyderabad.
      Yes, the shortage is real.

  3. There is shortage of Covishield in India at present. Increasing Covid numbers may further make things worse. Delays of the second doze or substituting the second doze by others like Sputnik may have to be resorted to. Management could have been better

  4. I had my first jab on Mar 3 and the app showed me scheduled for the 29th for the second one.

    Since I got the news of the 6-8 weeks gap, I didn’t venture out on the 29th. On the 5th of Apr I checked for an appointment and saw it was available for the 8th, though I would complete 6 weeks only on the 14th. I scheduled the appointment for the 8th.

    When I went to the hospital, I saw a huge queue of people waiting for registration. The first jab was taken at Apollo hospital and the second one scheduled at KIMS, nearer to my house.

    I thought if I have to stand in the queue,I might as well skip the schedule and reschedule it at Apollo which was not so bad. Luckily for me, I saw a representative at a table and told him I was there for the second dose. He checked my credentials and let me in. He asked whether I wanted it then or after the 14th. I said I would take it rather than wait as the queue I saw was alarming. The idea was to increase the efficacy of the vaccine…I would rather take it and lose a 2-5% added efficacy rather than struggle to get the second jab.

    I was hence lucky, though I am yet to be relieved of my backache, cold, hoarse sound and lethargy, all side effects I got after the second jab. The first one gave me backache for 2 days.

    • Yes, same question. Can second dose of the vaccine be taken at a center/hospital different from the one where the first dose was administered?

  5. I was given my second dose of covishield vaccine by Savarkar hospital mulund East. But I have not receivef any sms or vaccination certificate. The portal shows I am only partially vaccinated. I think my second dose details were not uploaded by the hospital. What to do ?

  6. Every body has his own experience. I took first dose on 2nd March and for second dose I waited for 6 weeks. I got my second dose on 15 april.
    In govt hospitals there was a long que but in paid centres there was another problem. The centre was not able to collect 10 persons, so that vail of 10 dose can be opened. I was denyed for vaccination on 14 april because only 6 person were available. There was no rush but waiting period was still there.

  7. The 1st dose of CoviSheild vaccine was administrated at a private hospital in Chennai for all three senior citizens of our family. Exch one of us got the Provisional Certificate! I scheduled the 2nd dose after 45 days and this time only 2 of us got the Final Certificate, When I re-checked with the Centre and also on the Helpline they said sometimes there is a delay. Now 15 more days have passed still not sign of the Final Certificate. Next due date shows 13 May which means the 2nd dose was apparently updated as 1st dose and they don’t want to admit their mistake! What is the solution??

  8. We are waiting for the second shot from 30 April. I could manage to schedule an appointment for 30 the morning at around 6.00 pm for the next day preferred time slot 9.00 am to 1.00 pm. At around 8.30 pm I got an SMS cancelling the appointmnt of 30th and asking me to reschedule the appointment. Since then, I have been trying to schedule an appointment, but could not succeed till now, in spite of me spending more than 4/5 hours sitting in front of the P.C. In some centres, they take walk in and people spend as much as 6/7 hours for getting vaccinated. In most of the centres show “FULLY BOOKED” or N.A. I do not know whether we will be able manage to get vaccinated with2nd shot in the situation prevailing. We, both are 70+ aged and will not be able to stand for 6/7 hours. Even when we took the first shot, we had scheduled an appointment, but when we reached the centre, we are told that there is not a separate queue or arrangement for the scheduled appointment. Since that day there was not much rush, we are taken inside and made to sit in waiting area and we could complete the entire process in about less than 2 hours. (Nice arrangement for sitting throughout) Will the concerned authorities look into the matter and stream line the entire process of scheduling appointment and vaccination. I understand different centres follow their own way in handling the situation.

  9. I had an appointment for covaxin at a CVC Center. When I went to get vaccinated, the centre was closed. When I returned back cowin website shows that I got vaccinated even though I didn’t get vaccinated. How to correct this?

  10. I and my wife were vaccinated on the 7 may 2021 for the second dose. But now it is the 11th and I have not received any message from the authorities, regarding the certificate. Now what is the next action.

  11. My husband had got his first jab on 12th March with covishield..in the provisional certificate it was written as covaxin.. when we raised the issue with concerns authorities they told the certificate doesn’t matter..any way they will provide the second jab..now those people have stopped giving vaccination and we are unable to get second jab..what to do? Cowinn app got many problems.. don’t know how to deal with this..his 8weeks are over.

  12. My parents were vaccinated with second dose on Apr 30. Till now, no SMS received and Aarogya Setu App shows as partially vaccinated, please advise.

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