The national drug regulator on January 3 gave “emergency restricted” approval to two vaccine candidates – Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, and Covishield, a version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine that is being manufactured under licence by the Serum Institute of India.
As the nation took the final step to begin vaccinating priority groups against the novel coronavirus, we spoke to Afzal Alam and Amit, two volunteers who took the first dose of Covid vaccine.
Excerpts from the interview:
How did you register for the trial vaccination?
Afzal: I received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin on December 30, 2020, at AIIMS, New Delhi. According to the doctor, my second dose of the Covid vaccine is scheduled for January 27, 2021, and during this time, I will be under supervision.
Amit: I registered for phase 1 of vaccination trial in July through a website, however, I didn’t get a chance in that. The team contacted me for the second round of vaccination trial on the basis of the information I gave. They conducted RT-PCR, blood test and the results showed that my body was ready for vaccination. This time again, the team informed me that they have not received enough doses, however, in the third phase I got vaccinated.
Do you have to submit any documents?
You need to submit a copy of your Aadhar card. In addition, you need to fill up a form. But your name should not be mentioned in order to keep your identity a secret. The booklet has a few mentioned symptoms.
What was the process like?
Afzal: When I reached at Covaxin trial centre at AIIMS New Delhi, doctors conducted RT-PCR test, noted my height and weight, and also took a blood sample. A Covid check-up was also
conducted. It took almost an hour to get the vaccination.
Amit: I was briefed about the programme and its history. The doctors took samples of my blood, along with checking the blood pressure RT-PCR test was conducted. The team also told me that I can opt-out of it at any time and there is no compulsion.
Describe the situation at the vaccination centre.
Afzal: All the staff members were supportive – they were not in a hurry to finish the trial and made us feel comfortable. They were answering our questions, even the irrelevant ones with a smile.
Amit: The team is in constant touch with me and is ensuring that I am fine and there are no side effects. They have motivated me and made me believe that I took the right step.
Did it hurt?
Afzal: Not at all. It didn’t hurt – also because I’ve been donating blood for years.
Amit: Not at all.
Any side effect? Headache or numbness or any other symptoms?
Not at all.
Both the participants have not experienced any side effects or symptoms after the vaccination.
For Amit, it was his second shot, however, he feels alright and has been travelling to Tamil Nadu for a vacation.
Amit tells us, “Seven days have passed since the first dose of Bharat Biotech Covaxin was administered. So far, I have not noticed any health-related issues. Right now I feel as healthy and strong as before.”
Any precautions you have to take?
Afzal: Doctors have asked me to follow all Covid protocols properly. A file has been shared with me by the AIIMS DOTS centre which I have to update in case of any kind of health issue.
Amit: I am not allowed to participate in another trial for a year, I cannot donate blood for at least 3 months and doctors have suggested that I should not think about family planning to avoid semen transfer for a few months.
Are you in constant touch with the doctor or is it like a normal vaccination?
Yes, doctors are in constant touch with the participants. AIIMS doctors have also given their personal numbers to the volunteers, in case of an emergency.
Why did you participate in the Covid vaccine trial?
Afzal: I feel that if the Covid vaccine is developed – it will help in increasing employment opportunities. Poor migrant labourers could get back and start working. I participated in the trial of Bharat Biotech Covaxin, which would show how effective it really is.
Amit: People are scared. They are happy being the social media crusaders, but when it comes to doing things for real, they don’t. My participation might help the doctors develop the perfect vaccine soon. The government and society need us. This will also help people in trusting the vaccine more.