As many as 101 volunteers have been vaccinated at PGIMER, an ICMR approved site for conducting concurrent Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine. A senior doctor of the institute, who also volunteered for the endeavour, shared with The Indian Express his intent and philosophy of being a part of this journey of hope.
“My work at PGIMER has been focused on people. In return, over the decades spent at this institute, I have received a lot and now my endeavour is to give back to the society, ethically, morally and with complete responsibility and that is precisely why I decided to volunteer and be a part of the Phase 2 clinical trials of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Covishield. I have already received the first dose and the second one is due at the end of this month. Fortunately, I have not experienced any symptoms or side effects, just a little body ache and we do not know if I received a vaccine or placebo, but I am feeling fine,” shared the senior doctor, who is also a professor at the Department of Hospital Administration, PGIMER. Deputed at a senior position in the institute since 1969, the professor said that disclosing names was against the ethics of being a volunteer.
The doctor, who will turn 64 this December, also has a co-morbidity– which puts him at high risk. “God has been very kind to me, and I believe that if the vaccine proves to be effective for me, the elderly will benefit from it and if not, they will not be subjected to it, and that is why I came forward to be a volunteer.”
On being asked about his apprehensions in this regard, the doctor said that he never felt the need to discuss his decision or the pros and cons of the vaccine with anyone except his wife, as it was a confidential step and one that was inspired by the feeling of giving back. “At PGI, we have been completely dedicated to understanding the disease and its many manifestations, keeping in touch with the latest research around the world and in the country. We have been making sure that constant infrastructural development at PGI is undertaken to fight Covid-19. “There is a lot of work going on around the world for the development of a vaccine and on October 22, there is a meeting of the United States Food and Drug Administration regarding the vaccine trials and we hope something positive emerges on this front soon, may be by early next year.”
Talking about the second wave of Covid-19, which many medical experts fear India may face in the winters, as Europe is experiencing now, the doctor said that there are two schools of thought, with the experts divided on the issue. “No prophecy regarding the disease has been 100 per cent correct. The morbidity and mortality has come down and the sickness rate is also decreasing, and our cure rate is above 70 per cent, which are all good signs. But at the same time, I would like to emphasise that with our large population, we cannot take any chances and we need to be extra cautious and responsible to prevent a second surge and larger community spread. Our behaviour can prove to be a big problem, as 90 per cent of the people have stopped wearing masks, are not maintaining social distance and we can witness huge crowds in markets and public places, which can be dangerous.”
PGIMER was approved by the ICMR as one of the sites for conducting the concurrent Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trial of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine in the first week of August. The Ethics Committee of PGIMER approved the Phase 2 clinical trial of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine candidate, which has been developed in association with AstraZeneca. In India, the vaccine will be marketed by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) as Covishield. Till now, as many as 143 volunteers have been screened, and 101 vaccinated, with no major side effects reported by participants of the trials. The trial is initially focused at seeing how safe the vaccine is in a larger pool of people, and checking volunteers for antibody production.
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