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West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil signs up for COVID-19 vaccine trials

Tri Indah Oktavianti and Arya Dipa

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Bandung  /  Tue, August 11, 2020  /  08:15 am
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil signs up for COVID-19 vaccine trials

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil (left) gives a statement to the press on the preparations by the provincial government to fight COVID-19 at his office in Gedung Sate, Bandung, on March 18. (Antara/Novrian Arbi)

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil announced on Monday that he would volunteer in the upcoming human trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine that is being developed by China-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech in partnership with state-owned pharmaceutical holding company PT Bio Farma.

“My medical team has helped me to register online. I have received some sort of a digital receipt [of the registration form],” Ridwan said in an official video for the press on Monday.

“However, I have not yet received any confirmation of my request. I still have to wait for the result of my health assessment, which declares whether I am qualified to be a volunteer in the trials,” he added.

Ridwan said he would follow all medical procedures without any special treatment to become a volunteer and he would accept any result, including if the trial committee declared him unqualified for the trials.

The governor said that his decision to volunteer would hopefully send a message to the public that the government would always actively take part in efforts against COVID-19.

“We are all in this together. Even the governor is willing to take part in the process,” he said, adding that he would be honest in delivering any result from the trials of the potential vaccine to the public.

In the meantime, Indonesian scientists are set to start phase III clinical trials of the vaccine on Tuesday in six different locations in the West Java provincial capital Bandung.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is scheduled to observe in-person the trials at the hospital of Padjadjaran University’s (Unpad) School of Medicine on Tuesday.

Read also: Sinovac-Bio Farma COVID-19 vaccine ‘ready’ in early 2021

The university’s medical school spokesperson, Rodman Tarigan, said the results of 21 volunteers had come back negative for COVID-19 after they took polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests as of Monday.

Those volunteers are set to receive the first injection of the potential vaccine in the human trials.

“The trial’s subjects had swab tests [on Monday] and they will also take rapid tests [on Tuesday]. Afterward, they are set to receive shots of the investigational COVID-19 vaccine,” he said on Monday.

In addition to the Unpad hospital, the trials are also set to be held on the Unpad campus as well as in four community health centers (Puskesmas) that are respectively located in Sukapakir, Garuda, Ciumbuleuit and Dago -- all in Bandung. Each venue will invite 20 volunteers for the human trials.

As of Monday, Rodman said that 1,020 volunteers had signed up for the trials.

Registration for more volunteers is still open until Aug. 31 as the trial research team has set a target of 1,620 volunteers.

“What’s important is that the process of the first [phase III] clinical trials [on Tuesday] must abide by health protocols, especially given that the President himself is scheduled to visit the venue,” Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said during a visit to the Unpad medical school’s hospital on Monday.

Unpad rector Rina Indiastuti said she hoped the clinical trials of the potential COVID-19 vaccine in the university would inspire other researchers in higher education institutions to develop their own critically acclaimed research and innovation in the future.

Read also: Bio Farma ‘ready to mass-produce’ COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end

“Minister [Terawan] wants to ensure that the trial will go well. He can also see the capacity of this university in conducting research and creating scientific innovations,” she said.

The first clinical trials of the potential coronavirus vaccine are to be held on the second floor of the medical school hospital on Tuesday, and the university staff have made sure that the rooms are disinfected and sterilized.

“The clinical trials will be safe as all staff and subjects have been tested. Everyone involved must test negative [for COVID-19],” the dean of Unpad’s medical school, Setiawan, said.

After receiving their first injections, all the volunteers will be observed for 30 to 40 minutes to find out whether they show any reactions to the vaccine. Volunteers who show no reactions will be allowed to go home and receive the second injection after 14 days.

The clinical trial research team leader Kusnandi Rusmil, a professor at the Unpad School of Medicine, said that all volunteers would need to take part in a total of five medical sessions throughout the clinical trial process, which would take approximately six months.

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