COVID-19 vaccine trials ongoing across Florida

Posted at 1:53 AM, Nov 11, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — The effort to fight the coronavirus with a vaccine is moving forward, with trials even taking place in Florida.

Mike Hammonds jumped at the chance to test one out.

“I just said you know what this could be a game changer for the entire world because we’re all suffering through this process right now,” Hammonds said.

He is taking part in Pfizer’s clinical trial. Though it is a blind trial, Hammonds believes he did not receive the placebo after experiencing flu-like symptoms after receiving his shot. The symptoms ended within hours.

“We’re all separated from loved ones from friends and family. I’ve lost friends in the beginning of this, I know a lot of people, my family members, that have are sick with COVID,” Hammonds said. “I hadn’t been exposed yet so I thought why not.”

Pfizer and BioNTech announced its mRNA vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without prior infection in its first interim efficacy analysis. The trial is continuing.

“It’s exciting because the novelty, the quickness, the global cooperation, all the different countries trying to do their thing but also all of these vaccines are being tested in different countries,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor of medicine at the University of South Florida.

Teng noted the speed and collaboration across the globe involved in developing vaccines, pointing out the virus wasn’t known to be in existence a year ago.
“The pandemic is obviously a terrible thing but also coming together shows what we can do collectively if we put our minds to it,” he said.

There are multiple trials ongoing.

AdventHealth said its a testing site for a phase 3 clinical research study for Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies COVID-19 vaccine candidate. AdventHealth said it will enroll up to 4,500 adults, 18 years old and older, from across Central Florida. You can learn more here.

James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital in Tampa said Tuesday it started administering a clinical trial for the single dose vaccines developed by the subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

“This is the delivery of this vaccine is a bit different in that it uses an adenovirus that does not replicate in humans but actually has spike protein on it,” said Dr. John Toney, explaining it’s a single dose and doesn’t need an ultra cold transport.

Toney is the assistant chief of the hospital’s infectious disease section and the director of infectious disease clinical research.

“If you have a chance to participate in clinical research it’s the best way we’re going to find out which of these vaccines work well. We suspect several of them will and we’re going to need all of them by the time we try to get into vaccinating 300 million people just in the US,” Toney said.

He said they’re looking for 400 veterans to participate. Veteran volunteers, including men and non-pregnant women older than 18 can enroll. There is a focus on front line staff and essential workers, as well as minority veterans, according to the hospital. You can find more information here.

“This can make an impact this can slow down what we have in the United States because right now we’re not well controlled,” Toney said. “This is not going to immediately change things but we do this we do it right we get people to protect themselves as best they can follow what recommendations there are.”

Toney knows the impact of the virus first hand. He said he and his family fought it, including his daughter he said was on a ventilator for weeks.

“You’re sitting in a hospital bed not knowing if you’re gonna get out or not, you can’t have family coming by, and my daughter was two beds away from me and I couldn’t go see her,” Toney said.

He said the best thing to do is for people to keep wearing masks when out in public, consider protective eyewear and practice hand hygiene.

Meanwhile, Hammonds said he is doing well.

"The sooner that we can get this thing behind us the sooner that we can all return to a normal part of life," Hammonds said.