Final phase of COVID-19 vaccine trial underway in Lexington

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – On a day when the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world was given to a 90-year old woman in the UK, the final phase of another vaccine trial that’s been going on in Lexington for the last several months continued.

The company developing the vaccine, Johnson & Johnson, hopes to have approval and have it ready in the next two-to-three months.

And, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two shots, Johnson & Johnson’s is designed to be given just once.

“If we’re going to beat the virus, we’ve got to take the vaccines,” said Dr. Richard Greenberg.

Three out of 200 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine trial sites around the world are here in Bluegrass state; At the University of Kentucky, Baptist Health Lexington, and Norton hospital in Louisville.

Greenberg, a professor of medicine at UK, is the lead doctor over three COVID-19 trial sites in the state. Dr. David Dougherty, an Infectious Disease Specialist, is the lead at the trial site at Baptist Health Lexington.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I’m hopeful it’s going to be very effective,” said Dougherty. “We don’t know that yet, but it seems very safe from the data that we have so far.”

Due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, doctors say they have been able to gather data quicker than they originally thought. Instead of needing 60,000 volunteers, they will only need 40,000 globally.

Steve Rogers is one of the vaccine volunteers from across the globe taking part in the trial. Half the volunteers receive the vaccine, while the other half receives a placebo shot.

“I’m 62 years old, I’ve got two sons, I’ve got lots of friends, and co-workers. I want everybody to be safe, I wanted everybody to enjoy their life. And if my one small part can help all of those things continue and continue in good health, then so be it.”

Both doctors said they expect to reach the needed number of volunteers within the next week. Then for two months Johnson & Johnson will collect efficacy and safety data.

This data will allow the company to apply for the Emergency Use Authorization (EAU), which would allow the vaccine to be administered. The approval from the FDA is going to take longer. FDA approval will take longer.

“If the EAU is granted, there’s enough information for those people making the decision to believe that these vaccines are important,” said Greenberg.

While the main data will be collected over a four-to-six week period, it will continue to be collected from volunteers for two years

“It’s important to watch these folks that are in the trial to see how long are these vaccines going to last,” Dougherty said. “When do you/do you need to get re-vaccinated, when is that?”

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