Rob’s Rundown: Week of November 16 – November 20, 2020

November 20, 2020 | Rob's Rundown

This week Senator Portman announced that he has enrolled 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. At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging in Ohio and across the country and only about half of Americans have confidence in the upcoming vaccines, Portman felt it was important to participate in a vaccine trial to raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness while encouraging others to participate as well. 

In interviews with CNBC, Fox News’s Fox and Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Dana Perino as well as remarks on the Senate floor Portman discussed his participation in the J&J trial, touted the unprecedented progress of the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, and called on Congress to find common ground on another bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill. 

On Thursday, the National Park Foundation announced that Portman is one of the Foundation’s inaugural National Park Heroes for his extraordinary service and commitment to the betterment of the national parks. In addition to his leadership on the NPS Centennial Act that was signed into law in 2016, Senator Portman joins Senators Warner, Alexander, and King in receiving this award for authoring the Restore Our Parks Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. 

Finally, Portman sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason regarding the urgent need to repair and restore the Brent Spence Bridge. Portman expressed his support and appreciation for the assistance already underway and called for a long-term solution to ensure the interconnectivity of the region. 

For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:  

Monday, November 16, 2020

Portman Supports DOT, FHWA Efforts to Repair & Restore Brent Spence Bridge, Calls for Long-Term Solution

Portman sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason regarding the urgent need to repair and restore the Brent Spence Bridge. The bridge was damaged in a fiery crash on November 11, 2020 and has since been closed for travel while critical assessments and repairs begin. The Brent Spence Bridge is critical for the region’s economy, with an estimated three percent of the nation’s GDP crossing the bridge each year. Portman expressed his support and appreciation for the assistance already underway and called for a long-term solution to ensure the interconnectivity of the region.

“The Transportation agencies in both states have begun repairs and seek Emergency Relief funding through the Federal Highway Administration for the repairs and restoration of essential travel on the Brent Spence Bridge. I understand the process to obtaining this assistance is already underway, with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet already receiving $12 million in quick release funds, and I support and appreciate these efforts,” wrote Portman. “While the immediate need is restoration of the operations after this horrific accident, we are in need of a long-term solution for the interconnectivity of this region.”

The full letter can be found here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Portman Announces Participation in COVID-19 Phase 3 Vaccine Clinical Trial

Portman announced that he has enrolled 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.  More information on the trial is here.  Portman released the following statement:

“While our country continues to address the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis – which continues to get worse with cases skyrocketing across Ohio – I’ve been encouraged by our progress in developing effective vaccines. The clinical trials being conducted around the country are critical to verifying the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines and making them available as soon as possible. 

“After getting briefed on the Janssen-Johnson & Johnson phase 3 trial recently by Cincinnati’s own CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services, I decided to step forward and enroll in the trial myself. I look at it as a way I can play a small role in supporting our country’s health care response to this pandemic. The more people Johnson & Johnson has in the trial, the sooner they can have the complete data they need to finalize this phase of the trial, and move on to the FDA approval process.  

“Once vaccines are authorized by the FDA and are made widely available, Ohioans and all Americans will be safer. When this happens, people will feel more comfortable returning to the workplace, retail establishments, restaurants, places of worship, and schools, as well as gathering with family and friends. We all want life to return to normal, and nothing is more important to that happening than wide-scale vaccinations. That’s why I believe the work on vaccines is the single most important part of the ongoing COVID-19 response effort.

“I hope that my announcement today will encourage others to feel confident in participating in vaccine clinical trials being conducted across this country. I also hope it will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines once they have gone through the trials and FDA approval process.” 

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

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 in the day 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 here and a video can be found here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses Participation in Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

On the Senate floor, Portman discussed his participation in the ENSEMBLE phase 3 trial for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Johnson & Johnson and managed by CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services (CTI) at its research center in Cincinnati, Ohio. At a time when the coronavirus is surging and only about half of Americans have confidence in the upcoming vaccines, Portman felt it was his civic duty to participate in a vaccine trial to raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness while encouraging others to participate as well. He discussed the importance of the vaccines to ensure Americans feel comfortable returning to retail establishments, schools, the workplace and gathering with friends and family. Portman applauded the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed which has led the unprecedented development of the vaccine candidates, and urged his fellow elected officials to stop casting doubt on a potential vaccine for the sake of political victories. Portman also discussed bipartisan legislation he worked on to fund a science-driven public advocacy campaign to ensure that when an effective COVID-19 vaccine is available, Americans are ready to get it. 

In addition, Portman once again called on Congress to find common ground on another COVID-19 relief bill to provide even more funding towards vaccine development to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is available as soon as possible.

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

On Fox News, Portman Discusses Participation in COVID-19 Vaccine Trial & Importance of Upcoming COVID-19 Vaccines

On Fox News’s Fox & Friends, Portman discussed his participation in the ENSEMBLE phase 3 trial for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Johnson & Johnson and managed by CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services (CTI) at its research center in Cincinnati, Ohio. At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging in Ohio and across the country and only about half of Americans have confidence in the upcoming vaccines, Portman felt it was his civic duty to participate in a vaccine trial to raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness while encouraging others to participate as well. He discussed the importance of the vaccines to ensure Americans feel comfortable returning to retail establishments, schools, the workplace and gathering with friends and family. 

Portman applauded the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed which has led the unprecedented development of the vaccine candidates, and urged his fellow elected officials to stop casting doubt on a potential vaccine for the sake of political victories. 

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

Portman, Hassan Bipartisan Legislation to Modernize Federal Government’s Use of Latest Technology Heads to President’s Desk for a Signature

Senators Rob Portman and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) applauded the Senate for passing their bipartisan Information Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act that will accelerate the adoption of the latest technologies by government agencies. This legislation expands upon Senator Portman’s bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government Act, which codifies the AI Center of Excellence (CoE) within the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide technical expertise to relevant government agencies; advise agencies on the procurement of AI technology; and promote U.S. competitiveness through agency and industry cooperation. Inspired by Senator Portman’s legislation, GSA created the AI CoE last year. The Information Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act lays out the responsibilities that all of GSA’s CoEs should have and harmonizes their roles to strengthen the government’s technology expertise beyond just AI. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“As technology continues to change and advance, it’s important that the federal government understands the significant impacts it will have on our country, economy, and society,” said Senator Portman, Co-Chair of the Senate AI Caucus. “Ensuring that our government has the capabilities and expertise to help navigate the impacts of the latest technology will be important in the coming years and decades. I applaud the Senate for passing this legislation and urge President Trump to sign it into law soon to ensure our government agencies have the insight and resources they need to better understand the benefits and pitfalls of this technology.”

Portman, Cortez Masto Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Study Chinese Government’s Influence on Technology Standards Setting

Senators Rob Portman and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the bipartisan Ensuring American Leadership over International Standards Act to study the impact of the Chinese government’s influence in setting global standards for emerging technologies. 

“Standards setting is an important frontier in the development of artificial intelligence,” said Senator Portman. “American competitiveness with respect to China’s technonationalist pursuit of dominance in emerging technology requires the United States to prioritize integrity and transparency in international standards setting, and I urge my colleagues to support this common-sense bipartisan legislation.”

Portman, Peters Applaud House Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Fix Security Vulnerability Posed by Foreign Ownership of Federally Leased Properties

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded House passage of their bipartisan bill that requires the federal government to determine if office space it leases is owned by foreign entities. 

“By passing this bipartisan measure, the House took an important step toward ensuring our federal agencies are prepared to address the risk of espionage and unauthorized cyber and physical access to federally leased buildings,” said Senator Portman. “This bill will ensure that the federal government has access to leased properties’ ownership information so we can better protect our people and information. This legislation has passed the Senate before and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass the House-amended version soon so it can go to the president’s desk for signature.” 

Portman, Bipartisan Colleagues Applaud House Passage of Conservation Legislation to Protect Tropical Forests & Coral Reef Ecosystems

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for passing their bipartisan Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2020. U.S. Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) led the companion legislation in the House.

This legislation reauthorizes a program, known as a debt-for-nature-swap, that allows developing countries that meet certain criteria to be relieved of debt owed to the United States in exchange for protecting and preserving tropical forests and coral reefs. This legislation reauthorizes the program, which was first created in 1998, for FY 2021 through FY 2025, at $20 million per year. Since its inception in 1998, this program has helped protect more than 67 million acres of tropical forests, which has not only preserved native wildlife and ecosystems, but has also helped protect the environment by sequestering over 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking more than 11 million cars off the road. Coral reefs were recently added to the program through legislation authored by Senators Portman, Udall, Burr, Schatz, and Whitehouse, along with Representatives Chabot and Sherman, that was signed into law in January 2019.

“This bipartisan legislation takes significant strides to protect our natural resources for the next generation while strengthening ties with countries that could become significant economic and national security partners with the United States,” said Portman, Co-Chair of the International Conservation Caucus. “This is a common-sense and proven approach that has protected millions of acres of tropical forest from deforestation – one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions. I want to thank Congressman Chabot and Sherman for their leadership in the House and urge my Senate colleagues to pass this legislation to ensure that our natural resources are protected and preserved for the next generation.

Portman Donates COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Stipend to United Way of Central Ohio’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund

Portman announced that he is donating the $1200 stipend he is receiving for participating in the Janssen-Johnson & Johnson ENSEMBLE phase three trial to the United Way of Central Ohio’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund.  More information on the response fund is here.  Portman released the following statement: 

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to get worse, with cases skyrocketing across Ohio, affecting families in every Ohio community. That’s why I felt it was important to join a vaccine trial and play a small role in supporting our country’s health care response to this pandemic. All participants in clinical trials receive a stipend, and I am donating the $1200 stipend I will receive for participating in the COVID-19 vaccine trial to the United Way of Central Ohio’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund. This fund is helping dozens of nonprofits in the Columbus region who have been impacted by COVID-19. I hope that my participation in the vaccine trial will encourage others to feel confident in participating in vaccine clinical trials being conducted across this country, as well as reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines once they have gone through the trials and FDA approval process. I also hope that the donation of my stipend encourages others to find ways to help their fellow Ohioans in their time of need.” 

On Fox News, Portman Urges Elected Officials Not to Play Politics with People’s Lives By Sowing Distrust in Vaccines

On Fox News’s The Story with Martha MacCallum, Senator Portman applauded the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which has led the unprecedented development of the vaccine candidates and urged his fellow elected officials to stop casting doubt on a potential vaccine for the sake of political victories.

Portman also discussed his participation in the ENSEMBLE phase 3 trial for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Johnson & Johnson and managed by CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services (CTI) at its research center in Cincinnati, Ohio. At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging in Ohio and across the country and only about half of Americans have confidence in the upcoming vaccines, Portman felt it was important to participate in a vaccine trial to raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness while encouraging others to participate as well. He discussed the importance of the vaccines to ensure Americans feel comfortable returning to retail establishments, schools, the workplace and gathering with friends and family. 

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Portman Named National Park Hero by National Park Foundation

The National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit partner to the National Park Service, announced that U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is one of the Foundation’s inaugural National Park Heroes for his extraordinary service and commitment to the betterment of the national parks. In addition to his leadership on the NPS Centennial Act that was signed into law in 2016, Senator Portman joins Senators Warner, Alexander, and King in receiving this award for authoring the Restore Our Parks Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. 

“As an avid outdoorsman, I’m honored to receive the National Park Foundation’s Hero Award,” Senator Portman said. “I appreciate the National Park Foundation’s support for our bipartisan efforts to protect and preserve our national park sites, through both the NPS Centennial Act in 2016 and, most recently, through my Restore Our Parks Act, now law. I look forward to continuing to work together as this law begins ensuring that our national parks are maintained and protected so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Portman Column: Vaccines are a Key Tool in Our Fight against Coronavirus

Ohio, like the rest of the country, is currently experiencing an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases. The number of new cases per day in Ohio has more than doubled over the last three weeks. In short, the trajectory is not good, with not just more cases, but more hospitalizations, more visits to the ICU, and sadly, more fatalities. We need to take every measure available to us to reverse this trend.

While masks, social distancing, and testing are important to slowing the spread of the virus, and new therapies can reduce the symptoms, I believe that the single most important thing we can do is to develop effective vaccines to provide immunity to the disease, allowing people to get back to a more normal life and return to work, churches and other places of worship, schools, restaurants, and just to be able to get together with family and friends. In addition to making these vaccine available, it is critical that people feel confident about getting the vaccination. The more people who receive the approved vaccine, the more effective it will be in stopping the virus from affecting all of us.

There are clinical trials for a number of potential COVID-19 vaccines currently ongoing around the country – these trials are critical for gathering information on how safe and effective the vaccines are in order to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for public use. I recently spoke to CTI Clinical Trials and Consulting Services in Cincinnati, a global research company managing some of these trials, and they told me how important it is to have enough volunteers sign up and participate in the trial process.

For that reason, I decided to join one of CTI’s trials testing a potential vaccine being developed by Jannsen-Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Like other participants in the trial, I don’t know if I received the vaccine or a placebo. Anyone who volunteers is playing a small but important part in speeding up the process to have vaccines available by providing additional data to complete the trial. I hope that by participating in one of these trials I can help raise awareness about how important they are, and hopefully encourage more people to participate.

We must also do more to increase public confidence in the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines that are ultimately authorized by the FDA. I am concerned about the significant lack of trust among the public right now surrounding vaccines -- according to the most recent Gallup survey, only 58 percent of Americans are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it is authorized. If almost half of all people are unwilling to take a vaccine, we will not be able to turn the corner on this pandemic. Part of the reason that public trust has declined is because of the rhetoric from some public officials, casting doubt on vaccines solely because it may be approved by the Trump Administration’s FDA.

It is irresponsible to question this important vaccine approval process solely for political reasons. World-class scientists working overtime on these vaccines are taking extraordinary measures to ensure their safety and efficacy. In fact, the FDA has actually raised the standards for giving any COVID vaccine an Emergency Use Authorization that allows it to be quickly distributed. By going through this process and using my platform as a U.S. Senator, I hope we can get more people to once again trust in the scientists and researchers working around the clock to develop these vaccines.

Thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act that provided $27 billion in funds for COVID-19 vaccine development, the Trump Administration’s innovative approach to cut bureaucratic red tape with Operation Warp Speed, and most importantly, the commitment and ingenuity of our researchers and scientists and manufacturers, we are making progress in developing safe and effective vaccines. As we have seen in recent days, this incredible investment of time, energy, and resources into developing a vaccine for COVID-19 has paid off with some very promising potential candidates, with vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer demonstrating effectiveness rates close to 95 percent, almost triple the effectiveness of the typical annual flu vaccine. The J&J vaccine in the trial I’m participating in has also shown great promise.

We must do everything we can to ensure this promising development continues, which is why Congress must come together in a bipartisan fashion and pass targeted coronavirus legislation that ensure there is sufficient funding for vaccine research and distribution. Safe and effective vaccines are critical to keeping our businesses open, helping the unemployed get back to work, and stopping the harmful health consequences of the COVID-19 virus. I would encourage Ohioans who are interested to join me in participating in one of these vaccine trials. Together, we can and will be able to defeat this pandemic, the greatest health care challenge of our time.

On Fox News, Portman Highlights Participation in Vaccine Trial & Urges Bipartisan Action on COVID-19 Relief Legislation

On Fox News’s The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, Senator Portman discussed his participation in the ENSEMBLE phase 3 trial for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Johnson & Johnson and managed by CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services (CTI) at its research center in Cincinnati, Ohio. At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging in Ohio and across the country and only about half of Americans have confidence in the upcoming vaccines, Portman felt it was important to participate in a vaccine trial to raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness while encouraging others to participate as well. He discussed the importance of the vaccines to ensure Americans feel comfortable returning to retail establishments, schools, the workplace and gathering with friends and family. Portman also applauded the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which has led the unprecedented development of the vaccine candidates and urged his fellow elected officials to stop casting doubt on a potential vaccine for the sake of political victories. 

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 given 18 floor speeches calling for bipartisan action focused on the bipartisan areas of agreement, 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 here and a video can be found here.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Portman Announces $4.1 Million in FEMA Grants to Ohio Health Care Systems to Help Continue to Provide Coronavirus Protective Measures

Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for awarding two grants totaling $4.1 million to health care systems in Ohio to help with costs associated with COVID-19. FEMA awarded these grants from replenished funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act, which Senator Portman supported and signed into law by President Trump.   

“These federal grants are great news for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Lake Hospital System because it will help them continue to provide the emergency care that Ohioans desperately need during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Portman. “This pandemic has created significant and unprecedented challenges across Ohio and these grants will provide much-needed additional support for our health care response efforts. I will continue to work with my bipartisan colleagues in Congress to ensure that Ohio has the necessary resources during these uncertain times.”   

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Vaccines are a Key Tool in Our Fight against Coronavirus

Ohio, like the rest of the country, is currently experiencing an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases. The number of new cases per day in Ohio has more than doubled over the last three weeks. In short, the trajectory is not good, with not just more cases, but more hospitalizations, more visits to the ICU, and sadly, more fatalities. We need to take every measure available to us to reverse this trend.

While masks, social distancing, and testing are important to slowing the spread of the virus, and new therapies can reduce the symptoms, I believe that the single most important thing we can do is to develop effective vaccines to provide immunity to the disease, allowing people to get back to a more normal life and return to work, churches and other places of worship, schools, restaurants, and just to be able to get together with family and friends. In addition to making these vaccine available, it is critical that people feel confident about getting the vaccination. The more people who receive the approved vaccine, the more effective it will be in stopping the virus from affecting all of us.

There are clinical trials for a number of potential COVID-19 vaccines currently ongoing around the country – these trials are critical for gathering information on how safe and effective the vaccines are in order to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for public use. I recently spoke to CTI Clinical Trials and Consulting Services in Cincinnati, a global research company managing some of these trials, and they told me how important it is to have enough volunteers sign up and participate in the trial process.

For that reason, I decided to join one of CTI’s trials testing a potential vaccine being developed by Jannsen-Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Like other participants in the trial, I don’t know if I received the vaccine or a placebo. Anyone who volunteers is playing a small but important part in speeding up the process to have vaccines available by providing additional data to complete the trial. I hope that by participating in one of these trials I can help raise awareness about how important they are, and hopefully encourage more people to participate.

We must also do more to increase public confidence in the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines that are ultimately authorized by the FDA. I am concerned about the significant lack of trust among the public right now surrounding vaccines -- according to the most recent Gallup survey, only 58 percent of Americans are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it is authorized. If almost half of all people are unwilling to take a vaccine, we will not be able to turn the corner on this pandemic. Part of the reason that public trust has declined is because of the rhetoric from some public officials, casting doubt on vaccines solely because it may be approved by the Trump Administration’s FDA.

It is irresponsible to question this important vaccine approval process solely for political reasons. World-class scientists working overtime on these vaccines are taking extraordinary measures to ensure their safety and efficacy. In fact, the FDA has actually raised the standards for giving any COVID vaccine an Emergency Use Authorization that allows it to be quickly distributed. By going through this process and using my platform as a U.S. Senator, I hope we can get more people to once again trust in the scientists and researchers working around the clock to develop these vaccines.

Thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act that provided $27 billion in funds for COVID-19 vaccine development, the Trump Administration’s innovative approach to cut bureaucratic red tape with Operation Warp Speed, and most importantly, the commitment and ingenuity of our researchers and scientists and manufacturers, we are making progress in developing safe and effective vaccines. As we have seen in recent days, this incredible investment of time, energy, and resources into developing a vaccine for COVID-19 has paid off with some very promising potential candidates, with vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer demonstrating effectiveness rates close to 95 percent, almost triple the effectiveness of the typical annual flu vaccine. The J&J vaccine in the trial I’m participating in has also shown great promise.

We must do everything we can to ensure this promising development continues, which is why Congress must come together in a bipartisan fashion and pass targeted coronavirus legislation that ensure there is sufficient funding for vaccine research and distribution. Safe and effective vaccines are critical to keeping our businesses open, helping the unemployed get back to work, and stopping the harmful health consequences of the COVID-19 virus. I would encourage Ohioans who are interested to join me in participating in one of these vaccine trials. Together, we can and will be able to defeat this pandemic, the greatest health care challenge of our time.

Ohio senator joins COVID-19 vaccine study to set example

A U.S. senator is participating in a COVID-19 vaccine study, hoping to encourage others to volunteer to take part in testing.

Ohio Republican Rob Portman told The Associated Press that he wanted to do what he could to help “explain the great potential for these vaccines” and the need for volunteers.

Portman decided to sign up after hearing about the that need from executives with Covington, Kentucky-based CTI, which is recruiting volunteers and doing vaccine tests for multiple drugmakers.

“I could help ... encourage more people to step up and join the trials,” Portman said.

He said he also wants to send a message about vaccine safety.

“One of the challenges as you know is assuring that .... people will be willing to be vaccinated.”

He noted that some surveys have shown that many Americans are wary of vaccine safety when vaccines become available.

He received an injection Nov. 5 at a CTI Cincinnati lab that is testing for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate. Volunteers get either the vaccine or a dummy shot but aren’t told what they received.

He does daily monitoring of vital signs, keeping a log and working with the lab. Portman, who will turn 65 next month, said he feels great and hasn’t experienced any side effects. The only discomfort was shoulder soreness at the site of the injection, similar to a flu shot.

He said he is donating the $1,200 stipend offered to charity.

Portman’s aides said they weren’t aware of any other members of Congress who are participating in vaccine testing.

Belgium-based Janssen, owned by New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J, is testing a single-shot vaccine in 30,000 volunteers. Late-stage testing started in September. The company has also started final testing of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

CTI spokeswoman Caitrin Cardosi said the company needs some 10,000 volunteers for five different vaccine trials and has around 8,000 now. And the company will need more volunteers even after vaccines are in use for continued research on how to improve them.

“We’re very grateful for all our volunteers,” she said, adding that she wasn’t authorized to identify other volunteers, but said even if not well known, they help spread information about the testing within their own networks.

Portman said he applauded the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which is helping develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, and that Congress should offer more bipartisan support for long-term funding.

“I think the White House needs to continue to support the scientists and not make this political at all,” Portman said.

J&J’s candidate is one of four vaccines in late-stage testing in the U.S. Two companies, Pfizer Inc., and Moderna, have reported their preliminary results show their experimental vaccines are strongly protective. Both companies could seek permission within weeks for emergency U.S. use.

The pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, with more than 245,000 deaths in the United States.