Sen. Portman enrolled in Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine trial

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told CNBC on Tuesday that he enrolled in Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial 12 days ago, CNBC reports.

Portman told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that he signed up for the clinical trial because he wanted to demonstrate that vaccines are important to ending the ongoing pandemic.

“The most important thing we can do right now is get these vaccines out and on the market, and we’ve got to ensure people are actually going to get vaccinated,” the junior senator from Ohio said, on camera from Capitol Hill while wearing a mask. He also emphasized the importance of wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“It’s one thing to have the vaccines, which I think will be ready by the end of this year, so really in just a month and a half, but we’ve got to be sure that people are willing to be vaccinated,” Portman continued. “So the reason I participated in this trial was because I think the vaccines are so important.”

This comes as virus cases across the United States continue to surge and as vaccine developer Moderna on Monday announced promising preliminary results from its vaccine trial. The recent spike in cases has prompted governors around the country to toughen restrictions on various aspects of life such as restaurants, the size of gatherings, and gyms.

The Buckeye State senator additionally voiced concerns about public opinion polls saying that millions of Americans are skeptical of coronavirus vaccines and thus might hesitate to receive them if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) okay the vaccine candidates for distribution to the public.

“These are FDA professionals. These are scientists that are taking extraordinary measures to be sure that it’s safe,” Portman said. “So, I want to encourage everyone to participate in the trials, if you’re comfortable doing that, but certainly to get the vaccine when it’s available.”

Furthermore, Portman said that so far he feels “great” after enrolling in the trial. He noted, however, that he is unsure whether he received the vaccine or a placebo. “A key attribute of double-blind clinical trials,” CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz writes, “is that participants remain unaware of which group they are in, so they do not change their behavior.”

Portman then mentioned that he keeps a diary for tracking symptoms during the trial, urging more people to participate in the clinical trials for the vaccines.

“I keep a diary. Every Monday and Thursday now I report back as to whether I have symptoms,” he added. “It’s easy to go through, and again, I encourage people to do it because the more people that participate in the trials, the sooner they can get to the FDA for emergency use authorization and the quicker we can get it out to the American people.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.