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President Trump visits North Carolina to discuss work on COVID-19 vaccine

President Donald Trump said he expects a COVID-19 vaccine to be ready by the end of the year and for more therapeutic options to be available before then.

President Donald Trump visited North Carolina Monday to tour a biotech facility involved in work to create a COVID-19 vaccine.

Trump's Monday afternoon trip to Morrisville is his first public event in the state since the eve of the March 3 presidential primary.

The biotechnology facility Trump is visiting is the FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center in Morrisville, a suburb of Raleigh. The White House said the company is manufacturing key components of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Novavax, an American vaccine development company based in Maryland.

As part of the visit, Trump announced a $265 million award to FUJIFILM for coronavirus vaccine manufacturing. 

“I’m proud to announce today that the HHS has just signed a $265 million contract with the Fujifilm Texas A&M Innovation Center, which is quite the place, to dramatically expand their vaccine manufacturing capacity,” Trump said.

Ahead of the tour, the president spoke to the media and said work on a COVID-19 vaccine is coming along "very well." He also touted Moderna's announcement from earlier in the day that it had started phase 3 of its vaccine trial. 

President Trump also said he expects to announce more news related to therapeutics and COVID-19 treatments in the coming weeks. 

He claimed that work is on track for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready by the "end of the year." 

Novavax has been chosen to participate in Operation Warp Speed, a U.S. government program that seeks to begin delivering millions of doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 next year. The company has been awarded $1.6 billion from the federal government.

Trump won North Carolina's 15 electoral votes in 2016 by nearly 4 percentage points. The state is considered a presidential battleground this fall, too.

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A scaled-down version of the Republican National Convention is still set for Charlotte next month. Trump pulled his acceptance speech from there after conflict with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over convention safety. The convention festivities headed to Jacksonville, Florida, but Trump pulled the plug on that venue last week.

The White House said Trump is expected to speak about the collaboration between the administration and the private sector to rapidly develop a vaccine and ensure rapid distribution once ready.