Sen. Rob Portman was guinea pig for Johnson & Johnson vaccine

By Sabrina Eaton - (TNS)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Tuesday revealed that he was one of the first people in Ohio to get Johnson & Johnson’s new coronavirus vaccine as a participant in a clinical trial that determined its effectiveness. He also urged his fellow Ohioans to get the vaccine, which he deemed “safe and effective.”

Portman said he didn’t know whether he got the actual vaccine or the placebo in November, when he agreed to participate in its clinical trial at CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services’ Cincinnati research center. He was subsequently told he received the vaccine. More than 39,000 people in the United States, South America, Mexico and South Africa participated in the trial.

“I’d always assumed that I had received the placebo because I had no reaction at all, not even pain in the arm,” the Ohio Republican said. “I say that, in part, to encourage people to get vaccinated … Some people do have reactions to the vaccines, as you know, but I had no reaction at all.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization to allow administration of the single-dose vaccine to fight COVID-19. It is the third vaccine approved to address a pandemic that’s caused more than 500,000 deaths in the United States and millions worldwide. Experts say the new vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe disease and 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death, as demonstrated by the clinical trial Portman participated in.

“I’m really glad that all that data is now being used to show that it’s safe and effective,” Portman told reporters. “It is a good vaccine, I’m glad I did it. I got a lot of other people to join these trials.”

Portman said that vaccinations are key to acquiring “herd immunity” that will finally stop the coronavirus from spreading. He predicted availability of vaccines will improve in the next few months.

“It’s starting to finally be something that is more widely available and my hope is that, in March and April, this month and next month, we’ll be able to have enough vaccines out there that people who want to get one can get one and certainly by the end of June, it looks like we’ll have a lot more,” said Portman.

By Sabrina Eaton (TNS)

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