Spectrum Health Doctor remains participant in Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinical trials

Posted at 3:01 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 17:51:11-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A doctor at Spectrum Health is part of the ongoing Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinical trial.

Back in December, 2020, Dr. Liam Sullivan, DO an Adult Infectious Disease Specialist at Spectrum Health signed up and was accepted into Johnson & Johnson's clinical vaccine trial.

He said, “They give you an injection and they don’t tell you which you get because it’s a randomized double-blinded trial, so they don’t know and I don’t know what I got.”

SEE MORE: Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets FDA green light

Based on his body’s reaction, Dr. Sullivan was sure he’d gotten the actual vaccine, not a placebo. He said he just didn’t feel great the next day and progressively got more tired as the day went on. He also reported waking up with body aches and a low-grade fever the day after that. Overall, the symptoms lasted between 24-36 hours.

His suspicion was confirmed not too long after, when Pfizer and Moderna both got their Emergency Use Authorizations from the FDA. Frontline medical professionals at Spectrum Health were eligible for either vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson sent a letter to their trial participants to let them know they would ‘unblind them’ in case they wanted to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Sullivan said, “The investigator called me and said ‘You did indeed receive the vaccination,’ she said, You know, it’s up to you what you want to do, we would love it if you stayed in the trial, but we understand if you don’t want to,’ and I said ‘Hey I’m going stay in the trial.’”

Dr. Sullivan will remain in the trial for the next two years.

“There’s an app, I fill out a couple times a week, asking me if I’ve had any COVID-19 symptoms or if I’ve been tested for COVID-19, and I have still not had any symptoms at all so I answer ‘no’ on that every time,” Dr. Sullivan said.

SEE MORE: ‘Every vial is a patient’: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine manufactured locally

Johnson & Johnson will also keep track of periodic blood work and any potential side-effects.

He explained, “They are looking at the safety and how to get the protection, and how long it lasts. I think as time goes on and the clinical trials show that the vaccine is safe and effective, and they release more data on that, there’s no doubt that that will help people feel a little bit better about these vaccines.”

Dr. Sullivan said he’s confident in Johnson & Johnson’s protection and is hoping others will avoid vaccine shopping, because according to the data, they all help prevent severe illness and death.

“They are all very, very good and I think we should all be excited about getting any one of them, because they are going to achieve the goal that we want them to achieve,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Pfizer and Moderna will also be continuing their own clinical trials over the next few years.

SEE MORE: Cincinnati Children's Hospital testing COVID-19 vaccine intended for children

Dr. Sullivan reminds people that it’s impossible to say if one vaccine is better than the other since the studies weren’t done head to head, so he hopes people don’t get too bogged down with the different efficacy rates.