Take an inside look at Johnson & Johnson's Bay Area COVID-19 vaccine trial

Saturday, November 21, 2020
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Johnson & Johnson has begun the final stage of clinical trials for its coronavirus vaccine, with Bay Area researchers taking a key role.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- The Food and Drug Administration says its vaccine advisory committee will meet Dec. 10 to discuss the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer filed for emergency authorization Friday.

Millions of doses could begin shipping next month.

RELATED: Pfizer asks FDA for emergency use of its COVID-19 shot

Kaiser Permanente is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine trial to adolescents in Santa Clara and Sacramento. 2,000 teens ages 12 to17 will participate.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson has begun the final stage of clinical trials for its coronavirus vaccine, with Bay Area researchers taking a key role. ABC7 News reporter Kate Larsen got the first inside look at Stanford's Johnson and Johnson trial, as Bay Area volunteers showed up to get injected.

"I have friends around the world who are affected by this pandemic," said Debbie Biederwolf, a pediatric neonatal nurse in the East Bay. "We definitely need to find a cure for this."

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On Friday, Biederwolf got injected with either a placebo or the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. She had the same reaction as many participants in blinded trials. "I hope I got the vaccine!"

Johnson and Johnson is enrolling 60,000 people globally for their Phase 3 vaccine trial.

"When the several vaccines that are approved are on market, I think it will be the most feasible in terms of it being a single injection, not requiring any special delivery or temperature controls," said Stanford infectious disease specialist, Dr. Philip Grant, who is the principal investigator for Stanford's portion of the trial. He says Stanford has enrolled about 50 people, with a goal of one-thousand.

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Dr. Grant says participant diversity is critical. "Number one reason, would be that when we roll out the vaccine, they'll be trust within the community," he explained. "The second key point, is that you want a population who's at risk for coronavirus. The overall study is looking to see 100 total participants who get infected and if you only get low risk participants, we wouldn't see those numbers of infections to see whether it works or not."

"I check a lot of the boxes," said Richmond resident, Britta Garcia, who volunteered for the trial. "I absolutely want to represent women, overweight, Mexican, older."

Garcia's motivation is also very personal.

"To get together with friends, to have dinner with people again. To be able to touch people, and be touched, because it's been a very long time," she said.

Q&A: Pfizer weighs in on when, how many COVID-19 vaccine doses could be distributed throughout U.S.

With so many vaccine candidates showing promise in trials, Biederwolf said, "there's a light at the end of the tunnel and I'm very excited. I just am hopeful that people will roll their sleeves up and get the vaccine."

Garcia agrees and says the collective goal should be, "to help make sure this gets resolved and we can go back to being the social people that we are."

Dr. Grant expects efficacy data from the trial by March and says Johnson and Johnson is planning another trial, testing two doses of the vaccine, instead of one, on 12-17 year olds. Enrollment is open.

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