Ecuador’s ambassador to India Hector Cueva Jacome has expressed his confidence in Indian COVID vaccines, highlighting that are ‘part of the solution’. He himself was part of phase-3 trials of Covaxin, the coronavirus vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech. Jacome is the first foreign envoy to be part of phase 3 covid vaccine trials in India. Covaxin recently got approval from India’s drug regulator.
Ambassador Jacome hasn’t exhibited any “secondary effects” of the vaccine so far and told WION that his country is on the lookout for an ‘efficient, secure, and affordable’ vaccine. He explained that he wants “to show my country, the trust and confidence that the vaccine will work.”
The envoy had visited Hyderabad last month as part of the foreign envoys’ delegation to visit India’s COVID vaccine centers.
Interestingly, his wife also took part in the clinical trials and has termed the entire exercise “safe”.
WION: How do you see the COVID situation globally, in Latin America but also how India has taken action?
Hector Cueva Jacome: I made a lot of research. And what is happening in the world? Normally in the western media, my counterparts say take care, they have more than 11 million cases in India, they are scared.
I tell, yes India has 11 million but you need to see all the picture. You have 11 million cases; you only have 3 lakh active cases. 97 per cent of cases are recovered, this is a huge number. India is very successful in containing the pandemic. You have a rate of 1.46 per cent of dead people, the lowest in the world. You are doing a lot of tests, you are doing well. When the pandemic started here in India, you did not have enough ventilators, now many countries are producing ventilators.
You have the medicines and in future, vaccines. In other countries, in Latin America, you had some problems. During the lockdown, during quarantine, many did come up with solutions to problems. You see the problems in Europe.
India is not the only example of good management of COVID-19, see what is happening in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya, Rwanda. They are doing a very well job in combating COVID-19. India is doing well.
WION: You took part in clinical trials when it comes to Covaxin, if you can tell us the reason you opted in, what prompted this decision of yours…
Hector Cueva Jacome: I am participating in medical trials. So, I don’t know, if a got the vaccine. You have to remember that, in this medical trial, under the process, participants don’t know if they got the vaccine or the placebo.
I don’t know if it was a vaccine or placebo. That was 2-3 days ago when we got the injection. We have to wait for 28 days, to get the second dose. Then I have to wait for 14 days and get a blood test. Then I will get to know was it a vaccine or placebo.
I participated in medical trials and it is the best way to show my trust and confidence in the Indian pharmaceutical industry, the Indian vaccine industry. It was a pre-mediated decision.
When I sent all the details of phase 1, phase 2 to my friends, scientist friends in the US, Ecuador, in India they tell me, the vaccine is safe. It was not yesterday, I decided to be part of the medical trials. I want to show my country, the trust and confidence that the vaccine will work.
Sidhant Sibal: Are you Confident of the Indian vaccine?
Hector Cueva Jacome: Let us focus on the vaccine industry. Almost 33 per cent or more vaccines all over the world are produced in India. So, after this number, you can see industry is working well.
You have, companies and industries like Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute that are well known around the world, companies who are very serious and they are not going to do something wrong. The vaccine is not just a business, it is more than that, it is survival. 33 per cent of global vaccines are made in India.
Sidhant Sibal: Have you approached the Indian government for the COVID vaccine?
Hector Cueva Jacome: Indian govt is a very good friend of mine and the Ecuadorian govt. They are very generous with my govt. During the beginning of the pandemic, India gave many donations of many medicines to my country. India will be very generous. I contacted people in MEA and in the Indian govt.
First, you need to solve problems here in India, then you have to go forward in other countries. I am sure, Indian vaccines are going to be part of solutions in the future for COVID-19 control.
People used to think, vaccines will be going to clear everything, we need to be more careful about that. COVID-19 is long term, a 10 km race and we need to check in Latin American countries–not only vaccine but also RT PCR tests, affordable test, effective test.
Tests in our country are expensive, here in India you go to any Lab and get RT PCR tests at Rs 800 or $10. In the future here in India, you will produce tests that will give tests in 30 min. Here in India, you will produce a nasal vaccine, by Bharat biotech and SII.
It will be a cheaper vaccine. We are on the right path. I want to tell you something very personal, when I decided to take part in a medical trial, I said to my wife that I will take part, she said, are you going to participate. She said you know, I am participating also. She is the real hero because it is part of my job to try to get solutions to my country, she is a real hero.
Sidhant Sibal: Since you were part of the vaccine trial, have any other diplomats also shown any keenness?
Hector Cueva Jacome: You know, people are really interested to know, how was it. If I had secondary effects. We don’t have any effects. They are really surprised. Some people yes, want to participate. Let’s see what happens.
The trials will finish this week. 25000 volunteers have participated. All the diplomats are keen, interested in the effects, results of phase 3 medical trials of Bharat Biotech COVID vaccine and also SII. Vaccine right now is expensive and we are not a rich country.
We are developing countries, so we need to save our budget and be careful about it. All the countries in Latin America, have an economic disaster.
We need to be careful about the money of our people and govt. Maybe we can have an option, efficient, secure and affordable option for our people, to our region.
Sidhant Sibal: Maam, you could have opted out, but you opted in..any reason?
Toya Cardenas Saldarriaga: It is very safe. It is safe for us, this is the reason.