‘How I became the subject of my stories’

Melissa Arulappan | Updated on: Mar 20, 2022
Melissa Arulappan, Head, Corporate Communications, IQVIA India

Melissa Arulappan, Head, Corporate Communications, IQVIA India

On volunteering for a booster vaccine trial and understanding the need for clinical trials

In early December 2021, I saw a tweet from Dr Gagandeep Kang, from Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore, seeking volunteers for a booster dose clinical trial.

Volunteers had to have taken two doses of Covaxin within the past three to six months. It was the opportunity I was looking for. With six months having passed since my second dose, the rise of the Omicron variant and discussions in scientific circles about the benefits of a booster dose, I reached out to enrol.

Clinical trials are not new to me. About a decade ago, as India went through a challenging external clinical trial environment and several questions were raised on its benefits, as a healthcare communicator I had been actively involved in demystifying clinical trials and creating awareness on their robustness.

This was my chance to put theory into practice. On December 23, I became the subject of my own stories — I received a Covid-19 booster dose in a blinded clinical trial.

I experienced the rigour I knew in theory — patient information sheet, medical history and clinical examination, a revisit of the inclusion-exclusion criteria I was guided on earlier, the informed consent form (ICF) and process, and so on. I asked questions from an FAQ (frequently asked questions) I had compiled for clinical trial patients, signed my ICF and carried back a signed copy, as well as a subject diary to record side effects (it’s still blank!).

In the first week, I had daily follow-up calls, reduced to weekly calls thereafter, enquiring about my health. Four weeks after my booster, I visited CMC Vellore for a second blood collection and, after the study was unblinded, learnt I had received a Covishield booster. I look forward to the study results.

It means a lot to have participated in a clinical trial, to contribute to fresh research and to appreciate better what clinical research professionals dedicate so much of their time to. When boosters become available in India, my participation in the trial would have contributed to deciding the combination of boosters that works best. That’s a comforting thought.

The writer is Head, Corporate Communications, IQVIA India. Views are personal

Published on March 20, 2022
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