WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was one of the individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as part of a trial in November, he said Tuesday afternoon.
Portman, a Republican from Cincinnati, said he recently learned he was part of the 50% of study participants who received the actual vaccine and not a placebo. Prior to getting that news, he had assumed he was part of the placebo group.
“I’d always assumed that I had received the placebo because I had no reaction at all, not even a pain in the arm,” the senator said during a conference call with reporters.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use in the United States on Saturday, making it the third vaccine approved in the country along with vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses, spread a few weeks apart, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.
“I’m really happy about that because already more vaccines are going to Ohio and the rest of the country,” Portman said. “They expect, I think, 100 million (doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) will go out by the end of June.”
This week Ohio will receive 448,390 doses of coronavirus vaccines, including 96,100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday.
As a result of the increased vaccine availability, Ohio will expand vaccine eligibility on Thursday to people 60 and older, people with Type 1 diabetes, pregnant women, bone marrow transplant recipients, people with ALS, police officers, day care workers and funeral home employees.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1.7 millions Ohioans – 14.76% of the population – had received a COVID-19 vaccination.
“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,” Portman said. “And certainly by the end of June it looks like we’ll have a lot more and then again by the end of July.”
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday afternoon the United States is on track to have enough vaccines for every American adult by the end of May. None of the vaccines have been approved for use in children yet.
“I know it’s hard right now to get a vaccine; I have a lot of constituents who have talked to me about that,” Portman said. “That will change. Over the next couple months there will be much more availability.”
Portman joined Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial after he heard the company needed more participants. He also encouraged some of his friends to join the study as well.
“I did it because they told me they needed more people in the trials, and that happened,” Portman said. “I got a lot of friends and others who joined. And I’m really glad that all that data is now being used to show that it is safe and effective.”
While there are encouraging signs in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans, Portman said people need to continue taking precautions to slow the spread of the disease.
“It’s been a tough time for our country, but I think we’re starting to turn the corner, and you see that in the Ohio numbers,” he said.
“It’s good news, but we still have to be very careful and use appropriate precautions including wearing masks and social distancing.”