Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the launch Monday of a scientific working group that will examine the safety of any coronavirus vaccine that receives federal approval.
The working group includes 11 epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists and other medical experts from across the state that will be tasked with independently reviewing vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Newsom said the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup will do so as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies like Pfizer and Moderna roll out their coronavirus vaccines into next year.
The state’s independent review process will also remain in place regardless of who wins the November presidential general election, Newsom said.
“There’s been, frankly, a lot of politicization … around vaccinations and we have to make sure that they’re safe and they’re effective,” he said Monday during a briefing on the state’s pandemic response.
Newsom cautioned that the amount of vaccine doses available before the end of the year will be a fraction of the U.S. population and that most Californians should not expect to have access to a vaccine until 2021.
The state was given an estimate of around 45 million total vaccine doses being available across the country by the end of the calendar year, according to Newsom.
That number, he cautioned, was strictly for state planning purposes and was also on the high end of the likely pool of available vaccine doses.
“Don’t anticipate or expect that you can go down to a local pharmacy any time in this calendar year and likely get a vaccination,” Newsom said.
In addition to the coronavirus’ medical novelty, the pace of vaccine development is likely to be hampered because most treatments currently consist of two shots over 21 days.
Those doses must also be kept in either cold storage or ultra-cold storage at temperatures as low as below 70 degrees Celsius.
That necessary cold storage could further affect the availability of commodities like dry ice that would be used to prevent the vaccine doses from spoiling.
“While a small number of doses of an FDA-approved vaccine could be deployed before year’s end, the reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us well into 2021 — and widespread vaccine distribution likely won’t occur for many more months,” said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s acting public health officer.
However, even when the time comes that a vaccine is widely available, the pandemic will not end overnight, Newsom said, adding that uncertainly still remains whether a vaccine will effectively prevent contracting the virus long-term.
“Even if millions and millions of Americans, millions of Californians, get that vaccination, get that second shot … it’s absolutely essential that we maintain our vigilance,” he said.