Durham VA recruiting veteran volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine trial

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Durham VA is looking for veterans to be part of a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. It's the fourth largest-scale trial in the United States.
Researchers said the more diverse body of vets who participate, the more they'll understand if the vaccine is truly safe.

So far, the VA said 300 veterans and 75 employees are willing to participate in the trial.

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"I think it is engrained in the DNA of veterans that when a call goes out to serve our country, we step up," said Frank Bray, who said it was a no-brainer to volunteer for the study.

He works at the VA as the manager of a group of respiratory therapists and has treated COVID-19 patients as well.

"If people in the past hadn't stepped up to do this, we wouldn't have the vaccines we had today," Bray said.

Bray spent nine years in the Army; he started as a combat medic then reenlisted and trained as a respiratory therapist. His service took him from California to Frankfurt and finally to Fort Bragg.

Next week, he plans to start the process and like others, he won't know if he gets a placebo or the vaccine since the study is double-blind.

He'll be monitored for his reaction and to see if he develops antibodies.

"We do need these studies to determine if they are safe and if they work," said Dr. Genevieve Embree, public health liaison for the Durham VA.

Embree said they're looking for men and women over the age of 18 to sign up. They're focused on frontline staff and essential workers as well as Black, Hispanic and Native American volunteers.
The vaccine is being developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, which is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The study will last a total of two years.

If there is a widely available vaccine, Dr. Embree said those participants should be able to get another dose. The hope is that those who have enrolled will not do anything for that two year period.

If you are a veteran looking to serve your country for a second go-round, click here to get more information on the trials.

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