Allina Health looking for volunteers to help in COVID-19 vaccine study

If you want to help find a COVID-19 vaccine, Allina Health is looking for volunteers.

They've begun human tests of the vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson and Minneapolis was chosen as a test site due to its diverse population.

"Oh, it's the most important thing I’ve ever done," said Dr. Frank Rhame, "the biggest thing I’ve ever done."

Dr. Frank Rhame has researched infectious diseases for a long time. As he begins a COVID-19 vaccine trial at Allina Health, he feels the weight of the work.

"Nature gave us a really tough hand here and so far we haven’t played it very well," said Dr. Rhame.

Allina is now beginning Phase 3 for the ensemble study of the vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson. Volunteers are recruited online at They are hoping for 60,000 people worldwide at test sites across the globe.

"We’d love to get 1,000," said Dr. Rhame. "We’re going to go until they stop us and the more we get, the better."

At Allina, volunteers will first see an educational video, get all the instructions, and consent. They plan to bring up to 40 people a day through the site at Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis.

"Our diverse volume of patients, our diversity of patients, was certainly a big factor," said Vani Nilakantan.

This is one of five vaccines being tested. All have shown they create antibodies but now need to see if they work differently depending on race or underlying conditions.

"It could be that one works in one population and not the other population," said Dr. Rhame. "So it’s a really more complicated question than does the vaccine work or not."

Volunteers, who won’t know if they got the vaccine or placebo, will be tracked for two years.

"This is probably one of the most monumental and important trials we have participated in Allina Health," said Dr. Rhame.

Of course, it's hoped a vaccine is out in a matter of months -- whether it's this one or all of them.

"Ideally, they’re all going to work great and if they all work great, equally well, then we’ll let the companies fight it out in their marketing departments," said Dr. Rhame.