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Covid vaccine trial in Bhopal: Controversy after death of participant as deceased's kin raise questions

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BHOPAL: A 45-year-old man who was a Bhopal gas tragedy survivor and had recently participated in trial for Covid vaccine at a prviate medical college, died.

This has led to controversy surrounding the manner in which norms were allegedly violated during the vaccine trial in Bhopal. 

The trials have been going on for sometime in Bhopal and earlier also questions were raised over the alleged lack of consent. Many participants said that they were not informed clearly and had been told that it was a vaccine for Corona, not that they were taking part in trial.

Marawi had received the first dose on December 10, 2020. Later, he died at his home in TIla Jamalpura in Bhopal, 11 days after the dose was administered. The post-mortem report mentions the cause of death as 'cardio-respiratory failure due to suspected poisoning'. 

The deceased is survived by his wife and two kids. His kin allege that he was totally fit before the dose. But a few days after taking part in the trial, he complained of fatigue and dizziness. Also, there was frothing and vomitting. Hospital officials say that he was a volunteer but it was not known if this was a vaccine or a placebo dose. 

They claim that the hospital had reported death to the authorities concerned including the company and the Drugs Controller General of India. Bharat Biotech is developing indigenous vaccine for Covid 19, which is named Covaxin. In its statement, it said that the follow up calls suggested he was healthy after seven days of the dosing. 

Meanwhile,activist Rachna Dhingra has alleged that the hospital authorities did not pay attention to the complaints of ill health by one of the participants and admitted him for treatment only after the issue was taken up by the media.

Dhingra has alleged that according to their information, about 700 people residing in the gas survivors’ settlement close to the People’s College were included in the trial and most of them got ‘lured’ by a vehicle that went through the localities announcing that Rs 750 will be paid for administration of vaccine.

It has been alleged that the procedure for informed consent – which involves audio-visual consent of those who are vulnerable (including illiterate people) – was not followed as these poor and illiterate people from survivors’ localities were not told the details of the trials or its adverse impacts.

However, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said that the viscera report of Marawai was awaited. He asked people to desist from spreading misconceptions about the vaccine. Chouhan said that this particular issue needs to be dealt with sensitively. He said after-effects should be visible in 24 hrs or a couple of days, not a long period. 

Photo: Artem Podrez, Pexels.