Allina seeks Minnesotans to participate in world’s largest clinical trial for COVID vaccine

The world’s largest clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine is now enrolling participants in Minnesota.

The Johnson and Johnson Ensemble study is recruiting 60,000 participants at about 200 sites around the world. There is one vaccine trial site in Minnesota, through Allina Health, in south Minneapolis.

"The significance of this cannot be understated because for us to be part of a solution for a global pandemic and a global problem is huge," said Dr. Vani Nilakantan, the vice president of research at Allina Health.

They are looking for roughly 2,000 Minnesotans of all ethnic backgrounds to participate over the next few months.

The process begins with an online questionnaire to see if interested people qualify for the study.

If you are selected, you will register for a time slot at the trial site in Minneapolis, located inside the Phillips Eye Institute medical office building.

KSTP’s complete COVID-19 coverage

Coordinators expect to bring in 20 participants at a time. Participants will start by watching several video presentations in an auditorium, while separated by plexiglass. They will then be escorted to exam rooms for a brief physical and blood draw, followed by a single-dose injection, either of the study vaccine or a placebo. Participants will not know whether they get the study vaccine or the placebo.

"Minnesota is being crushed by this virus right now and we are going to be in a struggle with this virus for a long time," said Dr. Frank Rhame, an Allina Health infectious disease physician and principal investigator on this study. "Nature gave us a very tough hand to play and we’re not playing it very well, so we need to do everything we can to strengthen our response. If you want to do something to help humanity fight this virus, which is a terribly important cause for our species, this is a great way to do it."

Dr. Rhame said his team at Allina has been coordinating this trial site for the past three months, making sure to take COVID-19 safety protocols and social distancing into account.

They are looking for participants over the age of 18 who are not pregnant and do not have major underlying health conditions.

Participants can expect to spend four to five hours on-site on the day of their injection. There will be two years of follow-up, including eight visits with researchers, which can be done in-person or over the phone. Participants will do four additional blood draws as well.

Dr. Rhame said participants cannot get COVID-19 from the study vaccine, although they may experience side effects similar to a flu shot.

Participants also don’t have to change anything about their lifestyle to participate.

This is one of four vaccine candidates in phase three of clinical testing.

Click here for more information on the trial.