RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – For the second time in three days, the Trump administration focused its attention on coronavirus vaccine development work being done in North Carolina.

Following in the footsteps of President Donald Trump, who toured a Morrisville plant on Monday where a vaccine candidate is being produced, Vice President Mike Pence met Wednesday with researchers conducting clinical trials on a second potential vaccine.

Wake Research is enrolling thousands of volunteers to test a vaccine developed by Moderna, which entered Phase III trials this week, the final stage before possible approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“There’s a lot of interest on the part of the public – a lot of interest,” Dr. Wayne Harper, the lead researcher for Wake Research, told Pence and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn during a roundtable discussion at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Harper said they are focused on enrolling health care workers, first responders and others more exposed to the virus in their daily lives.

“We’re trying to reach people who are exposed to the virus, and the reason is, if the vaccine is going to work, we need to see that they’re exposed and see that it works, that they don’t get COVID-19,” he said.

The Moderna vaccine is part of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed to quickly develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine. The president has promised to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year.

“A 17-year process is being compressed into a few months, and it’s because of the selflessness, the hard work and the dedication of everyone involved, including the volunteers,” said Dr. Adnan Nasir, another member of the Wake Research team.

Hahn emphasized that no shortcuts are being taken at the expense of safety. The accelerated schedule involves real-time review of data and vaccine production done at the same time as testing, not after tests are complete.

“We want the American people have confidence in their FDA,” he said. “We will approve a vaccine or authorize the vaccine if the data support safety and efficacy.”

Harper said he meets with trial volunteers – half of whom receive placebos – personally to ensure they’re safe.

“We have to meet the patients face to face and watch them through the process and make sure they’re safe because safety is the highest priority,” he said. “If we If we can’t do this safely, then we can’t do it.”

Pence urged people to sign up for the trials at

“I must say, I never fail to be moved in the way the American people have stepped up for their neighbors, stepped up for the most vulnerable,” he said, “not hesitated to do what’s necessary to help our nation meet this moment.”

“I think people of North Carolina could be proud off the extraordinary ingenuity of the scientists that are here,” he added. “We’re truly grateful for all you have done and all the team here will continue to do across this Research Triangle to speed therapeutics, speed vaccines, to the American people in a safe and effective manner.”