50-year-old Santosh K More was among the first 10 Indians who participated in Phase II clinical trial of the Covishield vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India.
More, a CSR consultant by profession, got his first shot on August 26, 2020, and the second one almost a month later on September 29 in the Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University Medical College and Hospital, Pune.
It was a time when no one was coming forward for such a clinical trial and there were reports all around about the shortage of volunteers almost everywhere in the country. Stories of a handful of people like More encouraged thousands of others to join the trial.
Not only that, even becoming a vaccine volunteer was not easy for him as he had to face a lot of emotional resistance from his wife and two daughters – Radha and Esha then aged 17 and 19 respectively.
Almost, a year later, when the clinical trial for the vaccine, the ZyCoV-D vaccine for children aged between 12 to 18 years has started by the pharmaceutical company Zydus at the same hospital, his daughter Radha, now 18, has also become one of the first volunteers for the trial. More says that till now she has got three shots as per the trial procedure.
But despite his public-spirited work for the sake of humanity, he is extremely disappointed as he said, “I am begging with Serum Institute of India to vaccinate my wife and another daughter who is 20-year-old but I haven’t received any response from them.”
“I tweeted this and tagged Prime Minister’s office and Adar Poonawalla, CEO, SII but they didn’t pay any heed to my request,” More added.
@adarpoonawalla @sirum @rajeshtope11 @ashish_jadhao @anandmahindra @CMOMaharashtra @AjitPawarSpeaks Mr. Adar we are the volunteer for vaccine clinical trial in II Phase. We took a risk of Life. Our family members are not getting vaccine & no recognition to us & certification.Why?— Santosh K More (@sanam1312) July 13, 2021
More has also been trying to register on the Cowin application for the past couple of months but due to the vaccine shortage, both his wife and daughter haven’t got any schedule for vaccination at any centre in Pune.
“This is so frustrating. I remember my wife and both my daughters had cried in August last year when I had decided to participate in the clinical trial of Covishield. But these pharma companies have no respect for our sacrifices. They want to use us to propagate their own business at the risk of our lives,” More said.
He is of the view that if pharma companies and the government will continue to have this type of exploitative attitude towards clinical trial volunteers, they will face a lot of problems in finding people for their upcoming vaccines.
Hospitals, where the clinical trials for vaccines for children are going on, are in a huge shortage of volunteers and not able to meet the target as parents don’t want to make their kids guinea pigs.
When More came to know that there are a shortage of child volunteers, he encouraged four more parents to enroll their children for the trial.
He added, “Despite so much of hesitancy, I went ahead and took a decision to register my daughter too as a volunteer for the clinical trial of a vaccine for children and encouraged too. It is such a shame that despite my selfless contribution to the nation, I have to beg for jabs for my wife and another daughter,” More added.