Participant From Oxford’s COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Alleges ‘Serious Side Effects’

December 3, 2020 Off By Shamani Joshi

An Indian vaccine trial participant, who took part in the Covishield trials of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine in India, has alleged that the vaccine caused him “serious side effects”. The 40-year-old businessman from the southern Indian city of Chennai has sued the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, conducting these trials. He has alleged that undergoing the trials caused a “neurological and psychological” breakdown that impaired his cognitive abilities. 

“Our client states that the severe trauma he went through from 11th October 2020, because of the “Acute Neuro Encephalopathy” that he suffered, is an extreme side-effect of the test vaccine that he took on 1st October 2020,” said the anonymous participant’s legal representative in a notice. The man is demanding a compensation of INR 50 million ($676,000) from the Serum Institute, and has asked for the trials to be halted immediately. 

However, the Serum Institute has rejected the charges they call “malicious”, and claim that the man’s illness has nothing to do with the vaccine trials. They have now filed a defamation case against the vaccine trial participant for INR 1 billion ($13.5 million). “The volunteer is falsely laying the blame for his medical problems on the COVID vaccine trial,” said a statement issued by the Serum Institute in response to the accusations. The lawyers of the vaccine volunteer have called the defamation suit an “intimidation attempt.” 

According to the wife of the businessman, he “lost the ability to do simple tasks” such as making online payments, as well as lost his “creativity and confidence”. 

Serum Institute’s trial isn’t the only COVID-19 vaccine trial that has been pulled up for side effects. Vaccine trials conducted by Bharat Biotech International, an Indian drug maker, were also accused of causing an adverse reaction after a volunteer was hospitalised. These side effects were allegedly not reported to the next batch of trial participants. 

This also isn’t the first time the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has come under scrutiny. While the vaccine initially showed an efficacy of 70 percent, it later claimed that the vaccine was actually 90 percent effective, citing a “dose error”

The Oxford vaccine uses a different approach to the Pzifer Moderna vaccine. Instead of injecting part of the virus’s genetic code like the Moderna vaccine, The Oxford vaccine is a genetically modified virus that usually causes a common cold in chimpanzees. It has been altered to carry the blueprints for the spike protein, a part of the coronavirus blueprint, and prevent an infection in people. 

The Serum Institute has produced millions of doses of the vaccine, and expect to ask for emergency authorisation within the next two weeks. 

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