This week, Ohio's Republican Senator Rob Portman announced on the senate floor that he is participating in a COVID vaccine trial, managed by CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services in Cincinnati.
The vaccine candidate (JNJ-78436735) is being developed by Johnson & Johnson.
Portman said, in part, that he enrolled in the study for three reasons: to help get a vaccine moving, to encourage others around the country to sign up for vaccine trials and to help "convince my fellow Ohioans and others that getting vaccinated makes sense."
A recent Gallup poll found that in late September, only 50% of Americans were willing to get a COVID vaccine, dropping from 66% in July.
“Public confidence in vaccines is declining at exactly the time that we need these vaccines the most, and we need to do what we can to reverse that trend," Portman said. "My hope is that by being involved firsthand I can use my platform as a senator to help give people confidence that these new vaccines being developed are safe and effective. The more folks that participate in these trials, the sooner they’ll have the complete data to finalize this phase of the trial and move on to the FDA approval process."
Portman also blamed this drop in confidence, in part, “because of the rhetoric we’ve heard from some public officials casting doubt on a vaccine solely because it may be approved by the Trump Administration’s FDA."
Strangely, this statement seems to backed up by the Gallup poll.
"After two months of Democrats being more likely than Republicans to say they would be vaccinated, about half of all political party groups now say they would get the vaccine. This marks a new low among Democrats and independents, while Republicans' interest in getting the vaccine has returned to the levels recorded in July, up from their low point in late August," reads the report.
Johnson & Johnson says the Phase 3 study, called ENSEMBLE, "is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a single vaccine dose versus placebo in up to 60,000 adults 18 years old and older, including significant representation from those that are over age 60. The trial will include those both with and without comorbidities associated with an increased risk for progression to severe COVID-19."
According to Portman, a previous trial of this J&J vaccine showed that 99% developed COVID antibodies and that 98% of those still had the antibodies in their system after 29 days.
Portman also called for more money to be spent on a marketing campaign explaining to Americans that vaccines are safe.
“That’s why I’m working on bipartisan legislation to support a national awareness campaign that would empower HHS to cut through the politics and promote the scientific advancements we’ve made in order to increase public confidence," he said. "We don’t have a vaccine yet and we’re still facing another round of shutdowns with little help to support those who will be impacted by it. That’s the reason why we need to do more in Washington to ensure that the health care response to this pandemic does not falter because this crisis is getting worse, not better."
If you feel like watching his full remarks, you can do so.