Pakistani doctor urges people to volunteer for COVID-19 vaccine trial

Ejaz A. Khan, Chief of Pediatrics and clinical in charge of Ad5-nCoV Phase III trial, gestures during an interview with Reuters at the Shifa International Hospital, in Islamabad on Sept. 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 30 September 2020

Pakistani doctor urges people to volunteer for COVID-19 vaccine trial

  • Volunteers must be over 18, not have tested positive for COVID-19
  • The trial's end point, is flexible, but one goal is to show the vaccine is 50% more effective than a placebo, says doctor Ejaz Khan

ISLAMABAD: The physician heading a Phase III clinical trial in Pakistan for a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine candidate has urged people to volunteer for the trial, overcoming the resistance in the country to immunisation programmes.
Pakistan launched the trial last week for Ad5-nCoV, a vaccine candidate co-developed by CanSino Biologics and a Chinese military-backed research unit.
It is the first-ever large scale trial in Pakistan, which has grappled with disinformation around other long-established vaccines, and attacks on health workers administering them.
Efforts to eradicate polio, for instance, have for years been undermined by opposition from some Islamists, who say immunisation is a foreign ploy to sterilize Muslim children or a cover for Western spies.
“There are lots of challenges whenever you introduce something new and a vaccine is part of it. Vaccine hesitancy, unfortunately, with a country like Pakistan is also pretty much high,” Ejaz A. Khan, who is heading the trial at Islamabad's Shifa International Hospital, told Reuters on Tuesday.
"People should come and volunteer, people should not be hesitant. They can take part and become part of the team which is fighting COVID-19."
Khan, who has taken part in immunisation drives for three decades in Pakistan, said even existing vaccines had side effects, and hoped Ad5-nCoV would not fall prey to this discussion.
Shifa International, the first of five trial sites in Pakistan, has repurposed a building previously used for COVID-19 testing for the trial, which it hopes will have 2,000 participants.
Volunteers arrive by appointment, and are recruited through NGOs, hospitals, and corporations.
Volunteers must be over 18, not have tested positive for COVID-19, not have immune deficiencies, and not be pregnant for the duration of the trial. A one-time 2,000 Pakistani rupees ($12) compensation for travel and food expenses is provided, Khan said.
The trial's end point, Khan said, is flexible, but one goal is to show the vaccine is 50% more effective than a placebo.
Once proven, Khan said it was expected Pakistan would be provided with several million doses on a priority basis by CanSinoBio.
Pakistan’s National Institute of Health, which is overseeing the trial, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Pakistan reported 541 new cases on Tuesday - taking the total to 312,263 with 6,479 deaths.


New Zealand maintains Pakistan cricket training ban as coronavirus cases rise

Updated 04 December 2020

New Zealand maintains Pakistan cricket training ban as coronavirus cases rise

  • Ten people among the 53-member tour party have tested positive for COVID-19 while completing two weeks of isolation in Christchurch
  • Team members were confined to their rooms when the first cases emerged last week but had hoped to resume training before finishing their stint in isolation

Wellington: New Zealand health officials refused to lift a ban on Pakistan’s coronavirus-hit cricket team training during quarantine on Friday after the touring party’s number of infections climbed to 10.
The team were confined to their rooms when the first cases emerged last week but had hoped to resume training before finishing their stint in isolation on Tuesday.
However, health chiefs said the risk of further infections was too great. Ten people among the 53-member tour party have tested positive for COVID-19 while completing two weeks of isolation in Christchurch.
“I have very carefully considered this situation,” director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said in a statement.
“At this time, I continue to have ongoing concerns about the risk of cross-infection within the squad.”
The decision means that Pakistan’s cricketers will have only 10 days to prepare for their first tour match, a Twenty20 international in Auckland on December 18, and probably less when travel is factored in.
Bloomfield said the decision was prompted by the number of active cases detected among the squad.
“Public health considerations will continue to be foremost in our response to COVID-19, whether this involves individuals or teams,” he said.
“We appreciate the challenges that this decision will have for the touring team.”
Bloomfield issued the team with a “final warning” last week for flouting social distancing protocols at their hotel and no further breaches have been reported since.
The tourists arrived in New Zealand on November 24 and are scheduled to play three T20s and two Tests.
New Zealand has largely eradicated community transmission of coronavirus, recording just 1,713 cases and 25 deaths in a population of five million.