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Newsom names new group of health experts that will review COVID-19 vaccine before released to residents

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Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom announces new criteria related to coronavirus hospitalizations and testing that could allow counties to open faster than the state, during a news conference at Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., Monday May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)

SACRAMENTO (KGET) – Gov. Gavin Newsom today named a new COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup that will independently review any vaccine that receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration before distributing it to California residents.

The group is made up of 11 nationally acclaimed California physician scientists with expertise in immunization and public health who will review any vaccine before the state makes it available to those who are most at risk of getting the virus.

“Our response to COVID-19 has and will continue to lead with data and science including when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines,” Newsom said. “California leads in science, and by bringing together our state’s brightest scientific minds, we can ensure that any vaccine distributed here meets safety requirements. Recognizing that supplies will be limited initially and the first doses of vaccines must go to health care workers, first responders and others who are especially vulnerable to this disease, we are working to ensure that administration and distribution of an approved vaccine is equitable.”

The state said it will distribute and administer a COVID-19 vaccine once it is sure that it can be done so equitably, starting with those with the highest risk of becoming infected, and that there is transparency in the process by bringing in community stakeholders.  

“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 acting state Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan. “Across the country, states are seeing increases in COVID-19 transmission, but thanks to Californians’ adherence to our public health guidance and our slow and stringent reopening, that hasn’t happened yet here in California.” 

The members of the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup named today are:    

  • Chairman Dr. Arthur L. Reingold, the division head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the UC Berkeley, School of Public Health.
  • Dr. Tomás Aragón, the health officer for the city and county of San Francisco and director of the Population Health Division at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
  • Ambassador Eric Goosby is a distinguished professor of medicine and director of the Center for Global Health Delivery, Diplomacy and Economics, Institute for Global Health Sciences, at the University of California, San Francisco.    
  • Dr. Rodney Hood, the president and founder of the Multicultural Health Foundation and the past president of the National Medical Association and a Board Trustee of Alliance Healthcare Foundation.   
  • Dr. Nicola P. Klein, a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, and director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.   
  • Dr. Grace Lee, a professor of pediatrics specializing in infectious diseases at the Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. 
  • Dr. Yvonne (Bonnie) Maldonado, a professor and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics at Stanford Medicine.    
  • Dr. Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital and a professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego and the medical director of the UC San Diego San Diego Immunization Partnership.   
  • Dr. Rob Schechter, chief of the California Department of Public Health’s Immunization Branch.
  • Dr. Peter Szilagyi, a pediatric health services and clinical researcher at UCLA with an overall mission to improve access to health care, quality of care, and health outcomes for children.    
  • Dr. Matt Zahn, the medical director of the Division of Epidemiology and Assessment for the Orange County Health Care Agency. He served as chair for the Immunization Advisory Workgroup for the National Association of County and City Health Officials from 2009 to 2012.

In addition to the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, the state said a Drafting Guidelines Workgroup will develop California-specific guidance for the prioritization and allocation of vaccines when supplies are limited.    

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