‘Historic day’: Pence visits hard-hit Florida as final phase of COVID-19 vaccine testing begins

Vice President Mike Pence visited South Florida on Monday and held a roundtable to discuss progress of a coronavirus vaccine in its final stage of testing.

Pence’s visit to the University of Miami marked the beginning of Phase 3 trials for a vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., which he called a “historic day.”

“A day when we begin in earnest in phase three down the path toward securing a vaccine for the American people,” Pence said, who was joined at the roundtable by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

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The first of 30,000 planned volunteers on Monday will help to test the experimental shot, which is one of several candidates in the final stretch of the global vaccine race.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on July 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The volunteers at various U.S. sites are given either a real shot or a dummy without being told which. It will be months before results come in, and there is no guarantee the vaccine will ultimately work against the virus.

“We continue to work at what the president has called, ‘warp speed’ to make sure that we have a vaccine as soon as it is safely possible to have for the American people,” Pence said. “We have a goal of literally manufacturing hundreds of millions of doses by this fall and to have them available by next year.”

He added, “All of us have a role to play, wash our hands, practice personal hygiene, wear a mask every time that it’s indicated, or where social distancing is not possible.” 

Pence later gave remarks during a press briefing from the University of Miami with DeSantis and others, in which he reiterated that once a vaccine proves to be successful, there will be "tens of millions" of doses sent out across America.

Florida is one of many U.S. states that has experienced a resurgence in cases this summer. Pence said the administration will continue to support Floridians in its fight to contain the spread of the virus.

“We are with you. We’ll stay with you every step of the way,” Pence said. “We’ll continue to make sure your health care workers have the resources to provide the level of care that anyone of us would want a family member to be able to have.”

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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.