NAT 200804 Aadarsh P Ratheesh1-1596556063505
Aadarsh P Ratheesh with his wife and daughter Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: It is been nearly a week since Aadarsh P. Ratheesh took the first shot of the human vaccine trial for COVID-19 on July 28 at the testing centre situated in Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). Among the first batch of 1,000 volunteers who were administered the vaccine shot in the UAE, he says he is feeling absolutely healthy and grateful to be part of history in the making.

Ratheesh, 32, a cost engineer at a semi-government organisation in Abu Dhabi who lives in Dubai, first heard of the human vaccine trial from his office human resources department. “I have been following the pandemic story very closely and wanted to do my bit for it. I have a sister-in-law who is a doctor back in my home town, Kochi, and I know how important it is for members of the public to sign up for this trial. So I registered.”

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Soon after that, Ratheesh said he got a call from the ADNEK centre and was asked to go in for a blood test which included a complete blood profile and COVID-19 test. “A doctor from the centre called me and interviewed me in detail about my health. He wanted to know if I had any chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, high cholesterol etc. Fortunately, I don’t, so they asked me to come for the initial diagnostic tests,” said Ratheesh who was initially a bit nervous and read up about human trials before finally going to the centre. “My wife was worried as I have a two-year-old daughter and she had her own fears. But then, I read up on this and also spoke to some doctor friends and felt reassured,” he said.

Blood pressure spike

After the tests were clear and the COVID-19 test came negative, Ratheesh was called for the first shot of the vaccine on July 28.

Despite all reassurances, the nervousness caused his blood pressure to spike. “It took me more than an hour to get the shot. Once the doctors saw my blood pressure was 150/98, I was asked to relax and rest and report back only when my blood pressure had normalised. After my blood pressure came down, they took my blood samples first to measure the antibodies prior to the vaccine, which will be a benchmark to compare with subsequent blood samples that will be taken to see the anti-body activity in my blood. After that blood test, a single shot of the vaccine was administered,” recounted Ratheesh who has to go in for the next dose 21 days later.

He said he was given a small booklet to monitor temperature, symptoms and other vital parameters on a daily basis. “We had to watch out for any temperature spikes, skin rashes, swelling, allergies, nausea or vomiting. If we had these symptoms, then we had to be at the centre. Apart from a little pain and swelling on my right arm where the shot was given, I felt absolutely normal. The doctor was also monitoring my progress over the phone. He gave me a call the next day after the vaccine and seven days later on August 3. I have had no symptoms whatsoever,” said Ratheesh, who is now preparing for the August 18 dose.

Initial rejection didn’t put off this volunteer

In a second case, Raju Kailasam, a PRO for a Sharjah-based company and a social worker for the community, had been watching the news for the human trial. “During this pandemic, I have been greatly moved by the people’s plight and wanted to do whatever was possible to bring relief to the community. I have been a resident of the UAE for the last 20 years and have great faith in the country. I was very keen to sign up for the human trial and as soon as I heard it was happening, I called up Adnec and after my initial phone interview which I cleared, I drove to Abu Dhabi for the shot,” said Kailasam, 42, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala of India.

NAT 200804 Social worker Raju Kailasam-1596556065141
Raju Kailasam Image Credit: Supplied

Initially Kailasam’s blood pressure was very high and he was rejected. “I hadn’t slept well for many days because of all the community work. But after a few days of rest, when I felt better, I drove back as I was very determined to be part of this trial. They took my blood test and asked me questions after which I got my first shot of the vaccine on August 2. I have had absolutely no symptoms and am feeling totally fine. I have been maintaining a catalogue of my parameters in the book they provided. I have already got a message from Adnec that my second shot is scheduled for August 16 and the third one for August 21,” said Kailasam. “I was treated with so much respect and they actually reimbursed me for food and petrol for my trip from Sharjah,” said the father of two, whose family lives in Kerala.

Who is eligible?

All UAE residents who want to volunteer for the UAE’s ongoing Covid-19 vaccine trials can now register at the new walk-in facility set up at Adnec, provided they fulfil the basic criteria.

Through the new facility, volunteers in Abu Dhabi can be screened on-site and, if they are found eligible, they may be invited to return in a few days to take the first shot of the vaccine.

The centre is open daily from 8am to 8pm, except on Fridays.

Volunteers should be between 18 to 60 years of age with no serious underlying medical issues and without previous COVID-19 infection.

The vaccine being used in the trial has been developed by pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm CNBG, and it is the world’s first inactivated COVID-19 vaccine to enter the third phase of the process. It has showed promising results during the first and second stage of trials in China.