Janssen COVID-19 vaccine trial underway in Chicago, Southwest Side residents volunteer

"What's the alternative? The alternative is to get sick maybe die from it, so we have to find a way to prevent it."
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The fourth large-scale COVID-19 vaccine trial got underway Tuesday in the Chicago area and nationwide.

Oscar Bermea said he knows many in his community that have gotten sick and died from COVID-19, that's why the 74-year-old said he wants to do his part to help.

Bermea is one of UIC's first participants for the Janssen vaccine trial.

In a blind study, Tuesday, he was injected with a placebo or the vaccine.

"What's the alternative? The alternative is to get sick maybe die from it, so we have to find a way to prevent it," said Bermea.

While the Janssen trial follows others, multiple vaccines will be needed to vaccinate everyone.

Unlike the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Janssen is easy to store and only takes one dose.

According to UIC's Vaccine Trial Coordinator Dr. Richard Novak, early research indicates it may be as effective and safe as Pfizer and Moderna.

"Even though it's still in trials and others are approved, this one could very easily overtake them in terms of production and distribution," said Novack.

The trials conducted at UIC are specifically targeting the elderly and minorities.

Dozens of participants will come to St. Anthony's Hospital on the West Side to get the shot.

"I'm from the community, born and raised from the Back of the Yards and I've worked at St. Anthony's for 16 years," said Janssen trial participant Jim Sifuentes.

Sifuentes is St. Anthony's Senior Vice President for Community Development. He said he hopes by participating in the trial, he can be an example for others who may be hesitant to take the vaccine.

"Hopefully, the message gets across that Latinos and African Americans are going to take this and it will be safe ," said Sifuentes.

Even after the COVID-19 vaccines are given FDA approval, trials continue for several months and questions remain, one being how long will the vaccine last?"

The vaccine trials are two-year studies.

In it for the long haul, Bermea and Sifuentes say they'll do whatever it takes to help their communities
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