‘I wanted to be part of the solution’

Muscat: The world is waiting for a vaccine against COVID-19 as many companies are racing against time to come out with suitable shots. Human volunteers are essential to the trial. The Observer spoke to Revati Nirmal Sanzagiri from the Indian state of Goa who volunteered for the vaccine trial in India. When the COVID-19 challenge came about and the search for a vaccine came about, Revati knew it was important to join in the efforts.

“When I heard a human trial was starting on a vaccine that is being developed in India and that they needed volunteers, I wanted to help.  I wanted to be part of the solution. It should not be that our participation would become an obstacle to the wonderful work that is being done by scientists.  I was also fortunate to have the full support of my family in this step,” said Revati.

Revati and her husband Nirmal Mangesh Sanzagiri had been in Oman for many years (from 2001 to 2015) but are now settled back in Goa.

According to her husband Revati has always been in the forefront for social causes so he was not surprised when she wanted to volunteer for human trials.

“She decided to be a volunteer as soon as she came to know about the requirement.  On my part I wanted to know the actual process and the risks involved just to make sure she is safe.  So during the first session, we met the doctors and understood the procedures and the precautions that are taken.  I am proud of her that she is doing this from a sense of duty to the society,” explained Nirmal.

“When my mother first told me that she is going to take this step I felt a bit weird as we are going through a pandemic.  At the initial stages, I was worried wondering what if it goes a bit wrong and she gets infected by COVID-19.  But I went through the precautions they were taking and the fact that she will be tested before all put me at ease.  Of course I am proud of her because in times like these we need people to come forward as volunteers for the vaccine trials.  It is a brave move but it is working out quite well,” said her son Nishad.

For human trials there are some eligibility criteria for the volunteers. “A first criterion is the individual has to be COVID-19 negative.  Generally you have to be healthy with all parameters generally under control.  Tests of blood, urine, blood pressure, oxygen level monitoring are taken.  We have to sign an agreement that one is undergoing trials voluntarily.  The good thing about the agreement is that you can opt out at any stage without giving reasons,” she explained.

So far she has gone through injections. Each injection of dose is given after an interval of three to four weeks.

 “During the dosages, we have to monitor if there is any change in the body temperature, or if there is anything else out of the ordinary.  Also I know during this period of trials I cannot be sure that I am safe from Covid-19.  I have to take the same precautions as everybody else such as staying home, wearing a mask, hand sanitizing and maintaining distance etc.

One thing that has helped me during this period is breathing exercises and Yoga practice that I started at the beginning of the lockdown.  I would recommend this for everyone during the beginning of the lockdown.  Stay home, stay safe and take care,” Revati said.