Vice President Mike Pence visits UM as researchers enter phase 3 of vaccine trials

MIAMI (WSVN) - The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine welcomed Vice President Mike Pence on Monday afternoon as researchers entered a new phase in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pence made the South Florida stop to mark the beginning of phase three trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.

7News cameras captured several City of Miami Police cruisers along Northwest 14th Street ahead of Pence’s arrival.

Pence said, “I want to assure the people of Florida and people all across this country that we will cut no corners in the development of this or any vaccine.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also took part in the roundtable discussion at UM.

The vaccine, developed by Moderna, consists of two doses administered 28 days apart. It’s the first vaccine in the United States to reach the phase 3 stage of trials since the pandemic began.

The University of Miami was selected by the National Institute of Health as one of 87 sites across the U.S. to perform testing for potential COVID-19 vaccines.

Pence said, “Today, here at the University of Miami, we will begin the first phase 3 clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine. We are going to ensure that me move at a safe and effective pace.”

“Nationwide, it will be 30,000 people who will be enrolled in the trial,” said Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine Dr. Susanne Doblecki-Lewis. “Locally, we are going to enroll 1,000.”

Doblecki-Lewis will be leading the clinical trial for UM.

Doblecki-Lewis said, “We’ll plan to enroll 1,000 patients here, 500 will get the vaccine, and 500 will get placebo.”

Volunteers will be testing a potential vaccine developed by the American biotechnology company Moderna.

When asked how the federal government is going to be able to produce enough doses for everyone to receive, Pence said, “We’re not going to wait for the final clinical trials to be completed to start making the vaccine.”

Pence’s visit came on the day that the Florida Department of Health reported just under 8,900 new cases, the lowest single day increase in nearly three weeks. South Florida still represents 45% of the state’s infections.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, “The positivity rate is hovering at around 20%. We have seen days where it’s been a little bit below, some days a little bit above.”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said on CNN, “We’re supposed to have 30 for every 1,000 people. We should have had 800 here in Dade County when we started. Remember, we sheltered in place, which means people lost their jobs. It was terrible, they lost their businesses. We got out with very little virus in our community. Then it just started to go up so rapidly and now we think we know why, which nobody was doing what they’re supposed to do.”

A union representing thousands of nurses and doctors at Jackson Health put together a stern message for the governor in a Zoom video. One woman said, “asking today for Governor DeSantis to become the leader we need him to be. Please mandate masks.”

In response to the high positivity rate, a new self-swab testing site has popped up in Tropical Park. 

Those most vulnerable would receive the vaccine first, but Pence said he will pass the issue of cost onto Congress.

“We’re looking at how it works and for who it works for and also any side effects,” said Doblecki-Lewis. “We’ll follow everyone, whether they receive vaccine or placebo, for two years.”

The Moderna vaccine is the first of several potential vaccines that will be tested.

“This is the first one that has made it through the safety testing phases and is ready to test,” said Doblecki-Lewis. “There are several others that are coming rather quickly through the pipeline.”

Researchers will see which vaccine works best or if more than one vaccine should be available to the public.

“Our goal here is to shape our volunteer population to really reflect the diversity of South Florida and the diversity of people who are affected by coronavirus,” said Doblecki-Lewis. “The only way to do that is to be in a place where there are ongoing infections.”

For more information on this vaccine study, visit this link.

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