On CNBC, Portman Announces Participation in Johnson & Johnson Clinical Vaccine Trial

November 17, 2020 | Portman Difference

This morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box Portman announced his participation in the ENSEMBLE phase 3 trial for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Janssen-Johnson & Johnson and managed by CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services (CTI) at its research center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Earlier today, Portman released a statement discussing his participation and urged others to participate in clinical trials across the nation.

In addition, Portman discussed the need for Congress to come together and negotiate in good faith on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that bolsters our health care response, helps our economy and small businesses continue to recover, provides funding for schools and state and local governments, permanently expands telehealth options for addiction treatment, and provides enhanced federal unemployment benefits to help people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Portman has previously expressed his disappointment that Senate Democrats have continued to block COVID-19 relief measures focused on the bipartisan areas of agreement and supported by a majority of senators, saying that now is the time to put aside political differences and act on behalf of the American people.

A transcript of the interview can be found below and a video can be found here.


“As that last report indicated, the Midwest is being hit particularly hard. But it’s all over the country now, and sadly, the phase 3 that many predicted has happened, as people have moved indoors, the weather has gotten colder. So we have more cases in Ohio, more hospitalizations, more ICU, and sadly, more fatalities. I think, Becky, that masks are a good idea. You see I’ve got mine on this morning. I wore my Ohio one just for Joe. Social distancing, very important, but the most important thing we can do right now is get these vaccines out and on the market, and we ought to ensure that people are actually going to get vaccinated. 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.

“So the reason I participated in this trial is because I think the vaccines are so important. I started about 12 days ago, even before we learned about Moderna’s and Pfizer’s great success, the 95 and 90 percent efficacy. But this is the most important single thing we can do. Second, I learned from an Ohio company that’s servicing many of these contracts around the country that it’s difficult, sometimes, to get people to join the trials. And so I thought by doing it and going public, we might get more people to do it. It’s a great idea. It’s relatively easy to go through the process, you keep a diary and so on, but they’re professional and courteous, and I encourage more people to do it. Finally, the numbers about people’s willingness to be vaccinated are actually pretty scary to me because the Gallup poll from October, the latest data we have, shows that 50 percent of Americans are not comfortable with getting a vaccine right now. I think that’s partly because of what happened during the campaign, which was very unfortunate, where you had some people saying that the vaccines were not safe because the Trump administration was in charge. I mean, these are FDA professionals, these are scientists that are taking extraordinary measures to be sure it’s safe, and so I want to encourage everyone, you know, to participate in a trial, if you’re comfortable doing that, but certainly to get the vaccine when it’s available.

“I feel great. And you know, 50 percent of the people get the placebo, 50 percent get the actual vaccination. I don’t know which I got, but I feel great and again, I keep a diary, and every Monday and Thursday now I report back as to whether I have symptoms, and you know, 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, and this is so important. I mean, it’s a much better solution than lockdowns, it’s a much better solution than keeping people out of school and out of our churches and other places of worship.”


“It’s the most important single thing in my view. Congress ought to pass another COVID-19 bill in part to provide the necessary funding to ensure that the vaccination progress continues. Warp Speed has been unbelievable, it’s been unprecedented how quickly this has happened compared to any other vaccine development. It’s, again, being done carefully, with scientists taking the lead, science is calling the shots, but they need to have additional funding from the federal government because the government is essentially providing the funding for the manufacturer of the vaccines while the studies are going on, and if the vaccines end up being successful in getting the approval, then they’ll be ready to go. That’s expensive and it’s important to be sure the resources are there for that. I think it’s the best expenditure of taxpayer money that I can think of.”


“I would say two things, one, the professionals like Tony Fauci are going to be there, and that’s good, because the institutional knowledge will be there, not just at the FDA but the NIH, and, again, professionals like Dr. Fauci and others who run the task force. So, I’m not so concerned about that, but second, during this period of time, of course information should be shared, and that can be done. I don’t see a problem with that. I think the security briefings are along the same lines. I do think the president deserves a chance to have his court cases be heard, he deserves the chance to get the final recounts – certainly, every vote needs to be counted, and that’s not going to take forever. So in the meantime, I think it’s important to provide information to ensure we don’t lose track, but again, I think in the coronavirus case, many of those professionals who are currently working on it and are very involved with Warp Speed, as an example, will continue to do so because they’re not political appointees.”


“I couldn’t agree with you more, and we need to act, and act now. We can’t do everything, the bill that Nancy Pelosi has been promoting, you know, $3.5 trillion, she now says it could be $2.5 trillion dollars. We don’t need all that. What we do need are the basic things you just talked about -- a number of items expire at the end of the year, including, by the way, the expansion of unemployment insurance, which is really important right now, because with all of these shutdowns happening all around the country, think of the number of people who are losing their jobs and joining the unemployment insurance ranks and some of them are falling off UI because by year-end, again, this expansion that was put in place during the coronavirus ends. So there are a number of items, including some important tax relief that’s out there. Obviously the PPP is really important to small businesses. Again, some of those businesses are now being forced to shut down by government edict again -- we need to help them.

“So my hope is we can have a bipartisan group here in the Senate -- I have been talking to colleagues on both sides of the aisle about this -- to help on a targeted, effective program that deals with what we have to deal with now, to get through this valley, really between now and March. Because by March, we should have these vaccines widely available. And again, I hope people take advantage of it. We have got to encourage people to do that. If that happens, that will protect them and their families, but also protect others. But during that interim period, I’m very concerned with what might happen, both for our health care, but also for our economy, so let’s do it. It doesn’t need to be a huge package, but it should be targeted and focused and my hope is we can get something done before we take off for the recess after Thanksgiving.”