TAMPA, Fla. — While Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is underway across the country, one hospital in Tampa played a part in helping it get there thanks to a clinical trial.
James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital administered a trial for the single dose vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.
“It’s always great when you can participate in clinical research and bring things to a community no matter what that community is and for us, it was getting this vaccine early on to our veteran population which for me is a great thing,” said Dr. John Toney.
Toney is the assistant chief of the infectious disease section and leads the clinical research program.
“One of the things that’s incredibly encouraging is the storage and transportation, the logistics. So you know instead of having to stay really cold, you know some colder than others although that may be changing, then this can get out to more rural areas,” he said. “The advantages with that are it’s a single dose, it can get out to populations where it would have been really tough to get it to before.”
He points to the vaccines prevention for hospitalizations and deaths. He knows the impact of the virus first hand.
“It gives you a different perspective on things when you’re the one in the bed,” he said.
He said he fell ill with it at the end of last March, contracting it outside the hospital and ending up spending a week hospitalized.
“Which kind of blindsided us because we were protecting ourselves but kinda got us a different way from the community. So it emphasized to me vaccines are going to be really important at preventing that because it took me about 2 1/2 months to pretty much where I was before I got that so if I could get a vaccine that would have prevented that or made it a lot less severe what a bonus. That in itself I think is worth looking at any of the vaccines that are out there,” he said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s received more than 71,400 doses of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
James A. Haley Veterans Hospital said it’s received 1,000 doses and it will start administering Friday across a couple of sites, by appointment. They will reach out to veterans.
The hospital said it’s now distributing vaccines to all veterans enrolled with them regardless of age. Bay Pines VA Healthcare System said it’s doing the same by appointment at their specific location, while its other community clinics still have different criteria.
It too said it received 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which it plans to distribute by hosting off-site vaccination clinics in collaboration with community partners, to reach underserved communities.
“To go from that to having three vaccines available about the time it started hitting the United States last year is incredible,” Dr. Toney said.
He said the trial continues as they will keep following up with people and collecting more information.