Kolkata: West Bengal’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim became the second minister of a state government in the country to be administered a shot of Covaxin, India’s first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine candidate whose Phase III trial began here on Wednesday.
The trial, which started at the city’s ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), was inaugurated by state Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
“I feel I am quite lucky to be part of the trial. I am absolutely okay after taking the shot. I do not care even if I die while undertaking this trial,” the 62-year-old minister told reporters.
Hakim said that he will be very happy if his contribution helps in the quest for the vaccine against the coronavirus disease.
Hakim underwent necessary check-ups to ascertain whether he was fit for the shot.
Before him, Haryana’s Health Minister Anil Vij was administered a dose of Covaxin last month as part of the Phase III clinical trial.
Hakim was briefed by Principal Investigator of the trial, Dr. Suman Kanungo, about the steps he requires to follow after being administered the vaccine, an official of the NICED said.
The minister will be under close observation for the next seven days.
The senior Trinamool Congress leader will be given the second dose 28 days from Wednesday and after that, he will be under observation for a year, the official said.
NICED director Shanta Dutta said that Hakim was the only volunteer who took the vaccine on Wednesday.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar also expressed his desire to be part of the trial, Dutta said.
“He is aged and may be having some comorbidities. We are in touch with his physician and if the governor is found fit, our team will decide on whether to give him the shot or not”she said.
Dutta said that around 450 volunteers applied to be part of the Covaxin trial till Wednesday evening.
“The volunteers will be undergoing tests and only after they are found fit they will be administered the shots,” the NICED director said.
At least 1,000 volunteers will be administered Covaxin in the Phase III trial here.
Meanwhile, senior doctors of the state welcomed the Phase III trial of Covaxin in Kolkata but stressed on the safety aspect.
Dr. Sauren Panja, the critical care head of the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS), said it is a very positive move.
“But while running the trial, we should also keep in mind the safety aspect. We also must also not forget the huge population of our country who also needed to be covered by the vaccine,” Panja told PTI.
The price of the vaccine should also be fixed keeping in mind the average economic condition of people, he said.
Dr. Monjori Mitra of the Institute of Child Health said, “We have to focus on safety protocols keeping in mind the possible adverse effects of the vaccine, besides its price.“
Panja and Mitra have been principal investigators of vaccine trials for several other diseases in the country.
Snehendu Koner, the head of business development at Site Management Organisation CliniMed LifeSciences, said that initially none of the Bengal sites or hospitals got a chance to participate in the Covid vaccine studies.
A Site Management Organisation provides clinical trial-related services.
“We are proud that the trial for an indigenous vaccine started in our state. We have a lot of potential researchers or investigators and hospital infrastructure needed for vaccine trials. With these, we can even compete with Western and Southern chapters of our country in clinical research,” Koner said.