On Tuesday, the respective Governors of Nevada, Oregon, and Washington joined forces with California Gov. Gavin Newsom in independently reviewing any newly released and FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine before public distribution.
Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom created the COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup in response to concerns over Operation Warp Speed, President Donald Trump’s program to fast track a vaccine for FDA approval by the end of the year. Polls have shown that more and more Americans are wary of such a vaccine being created so quickly, particularly in Western states that have had little to do with the program.
“Healthcare workers and first responders will be among those prioritized to receive the vaccine, as will other essential workers, those in skilled nursing facilities, incarcerated people, the elderly, and racial minorities,” said the Governor last week.
The eroding trust in a viable vaccine made Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee side with California and join the Review Workgroup on Tuesday, with all three states now allowed to have representatives in the Workgroup.
On Tuesday, the Governors of all three joining states echoed Governor Newsom’s reasons for being part of the board.
“The independent review conducted by this panel of doctors, scientists, and health experts will ensure that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is available to everyone, especially communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this disease,” said Oregon Governor Brown in a press release.
“The FDA has made public information about the data required for authorizing a vaccine. That, combined with two independent federal groups, and our own Western States review process, should give the public pretty high confidence on the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine,” added Washington Governor Inslee in a statement. “When a safe vaccine is available, Washington state is going to be ready to distribute it in a way that is equitable, efficient, and most importantly, safe.”
Questions over California’s review board
However, many health experts have questioned if having an independent review would actually be beneficial when vaccines are first introduced.
“These four states have a total of 54.5 million people and account for 1 out of every 6 people in the nation,” epidemiologist Dr. Eric Adams explained to the California Globe. “That’s significant, but what if other areas of the country have different policies too? What if they have different review boards? This can slow down vaccine distribution, stagger effectiveness rates, and may hinder finding out just how effective it is.”
“Right now we are supposed to get vaccines by the end of the year, with public distribution sometime early next year. It’s still too early to say for sure, but that’s the plan. If California’s group reviews it, it can delay distribution out there, and in turn, results. And if other states do it, all the different regional variances could be confusing. Especially for people who travel a lot. New York has a similar program right now. What if their program and California’s program differs on some things they are checking for? Or not checking for? How can federal health officials read data like that accurately if questions differ or are asked in a different way open to interpretation?”
The panel, now comprised of experts from 4 states, is expected to begin reviewing vaccines as they are approved by the FDA. In addition, other Western states have also expressed interest in joining California’s panel in the next few months.