National, state leaders discuss progress of COVID-19 vaccine trials in Savannah

National, state leaders discuss progress of COVID-19 vaccine trials in Savannah

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A vaccine for COVID-19 is highly anticipated.

The Health and Human Services deputy secretary, deputy Surgeon General, Georgia governor and more came to Savannah on Friday to learn more about Meridian Clinical Research. The group met at Perry Lane to discuss what’s still to come and what’s being done. Some say the work is only beginning.

“It’s been a great honor to participate, these are, I think the most important clinical trials in the history of mankind,” Meridian Clinical Research Chief Investigator Dr. Paul Bradley said.

Meridian Clinical Research is in Phase 3 research with three vaccines and say things are going well. That was noticed by the Health and Human Services Deputy Director Eric Hargan.

“We are making real progress against this virus and this progress would not have been possible without the support and the sacrifice of so many in this state,” Hargan said.

While development of a COVID-19 vaccine has moved fast, officials say you can be confident safety and efficacy were not compromised. Rather, leaders say it was a streamlining of the process that made a difference to get an approved vaccine out quickly.

#Watch: Gov. Brian Kemp joins the HHS Deputy Secretary and others in Savannah to discuss Operation Warp Speed, the search for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Posted by WTOC-TV on Friday, October 16, 2020

“I’ve never had oversite like this before, but making sure that everything is done right, everything is done carefully, but with the most efficacious manner possible,” Dr. Bradley said.

“One of the major things that we’ve been able to do is that we’ve been able to invest, the R&D is going forward. We’re also investing in factory capacity buildout at the same time and we’re investing in the distribution system at the same time,” Hargan said.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp says they are submitting their vaccine distribution plan today. They will work with local hospitals and public health.

“When the vaccine is ready, we can get it out quick and get it deployed and get it to the folks that need it,” Gov. Kemp said.

Hargan says they are working to combat vaccine hesitancy and plan to launch outreach efforts within the minority community and beyond to provide information and confidence in the vaccine which can help us return to our lives. Hargan said as far as a timeline goes, they are still on track for a vaccine by the end of this year. As one company plans to present data by the end of October.

National, state leaders discuss progress of COVID-19 vaccine trials in Savannah

Dawn Baker thanked for participating in clinical trials

WTOC’s Dawn Baker is participating in a clinical trial. She was the first person in the country to receive the Phase 3 vaccine shot in July.

Gov. Kemp called her a hero Friday for her role in fighting COVID-19.

Health leaders say participants in trials, like those happening in Savannah, are making a huge difference. They also commended Dr. Bradley.

While Baker says she doesn’t feel like a hero, it’s clear her service is noticed and appreciated.

“As soon as I realized that it was safe, that it was not a live vaccine, it wouldn’t increase my chances of getting COVID-19, it really honestly was a no-brainer and I have had no regrets,” Baker said.

“Thank you for that Dawn. You’re still a hero in my book for doing this and I certainly appreciate Dr. Bradley,” Gov. Kemp said.

“Dawn, thank you for your generosity and courage for volunteering to be a part of the scientific efforts that will help end this pandemic,” Hargan said.

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