WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ohio’s senators are doing their part to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and can be delivered quickly to those in need.
On Thursday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Republican, announced he was taking part in a trial for a vaccine being produced by Johnson and Johnson, an Ohio company.
“Well, at the briefing that I had from a company in Ohio that organizes these trials around the country, I found out that they were having a tough time getting more people to join the trials, and more people in the trials is a good thing because that gets us quicker to an FDA authorization process and a vaccine more quickly,” Portman said on “Fox and Friends” on Fox News Wednesday.
He said he asked if he should join the trials and was told yes, and that making it public might encourage others to join.
Portman also discussed the process, revealing it is quite thorough.
“I mean, your arm hurts a little bit, but, you know, it’s a very thorough interview process you go through,” Portman said. “You’ve got to reveal everything about your life, you’ve got to be sure your own doctor, if you have one, is on board, you’ve got to go through a daily diary for the first week where you tell them exactly how you’re doing, take your temperature and so on.”
He added currently he meets with research personnel Mondays and Thursdays to go over his personal report.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat, also announced Wednesday he was introducing a bill to make it affordable for as many adults as possible to receive a COVID vaccine when one is ready.
“This legislation would help us ensure more Americans are able to get the vaccines they need with no out-of-pocket costs, and provide more federal matching funds for states like Ohio to better reach at-risk and vulnerable patients,” Brown said while announcing he would be introducing the Helping Adults Protect Immunity (HAPI) Act.
He added this would apply to other vaccines, not just COVID. He also said those enrolled in traditional Medicaid face varying out-of-pocket costs for vaccines, while those in expanded Medicaid available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) pay nothing.
“Our bill ... will ensure that everyone in Medicaid gets all recommended vaccines, including a future COVID vaccine, with literally zero dollars in co-pays,” Brown said.
He said a vaccine is most helpful when as many people as possible get it.
“The concept of herd immunity rests on everyone, regardless of their background or where they live, on everyone being able to get vaccinated,” Brown said.
“It’s going to be the same with COVID-19, a vaccine will only be effective if most people get it,” he added.
He pointed to past efforts through the public health institution that has led to the virtual eradication of polio, small pox and other diseases in the U.S. through vaccinations.
Dr. Sarah Sams, associate director of the Grant Family Medicine Residency Program in Columbus, said most people are aware of the importance of vaccinations for children, but added there are several that are also recommended for adults.
She pointed to the TDap vaccine that is recommended for pregnant women to help prevent pertussis from being passed on to the child, but added a TDap booster is also recommended for all caregivers and those in close contact with newborns.
Portman added he has been concerned about the number of people who have stated they would not be willing to get a vaccine, and encouraged everyone to do so once one is available.
“When I got into this, it was 50%,” Portman said. “As of last night (Tuesday), it is now up to 58% of Americans who are willing to get vaccinated, and we need everybody to be willing to get vaccinated who doesn’t have a medical issue because this is going to protect them and their families but also our community.”
Both senators stressed that the economy cannot be revived until the COVID-19 virus is mitigated, and a vaccine would go a long way toward that goal.
Sams was asked about Ohio’s plans for distributing a vaccine when one is ready, and she answered that those discussions continue on a daily basis.
“There’s nothing absolutely set in stone yet because we don’t know yet how the vaccine will need to be stored, and that will have an influence on how and where it can be distributed,” Sams said.
“The most important thing is once we have a vaccine is to make sure we get it to healthcare workers and high-risk patients first so we can care for the patients that are ill and then distribute it down through the ranks to all patients,” Sams added.
Brown said there are other bills in Congress with similar goals as his, and he isn’t concerned which one gets passed as long as there is a national effort to distribute the vaccines and make sure everyone can get one.
“I’m certainly not the end all and be all, I’m very open to make sure we as a society do what we need to do to make sure these vaccines get to people as quickly as possible,” Brown said.