Three Western States Join California in Reviewing Safety of FDA-Approved COVID-19 Vaccine

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference Tuesday. | Screenshot courtesy of California Governor Gavin Newsom on YouTube

Washington, Oregon and Nevada have joined California’s COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which will independently review the safety and efficacy of any vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for distribution, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday during a press conference. Last week, Newsom announced the panel made up of scientists with expertise in immunization and public health.

“California has led with science and data through the COVID pandemic and when a vaccine becomes available, we will leverage our scientific expertise to verify its safety to give everyone the confidence they need to make important decisions regarding the health of their families,” said Newsom. “This virus transcends our borders, and we are grateful to partner with our neighboring states though our Scientific Safety Review Workgroup for a healthy and safe path forward for all our communities.”

The governors of Washington, Oregon and Nevada will identify public health experts to join California’s workgroup to guide the review of any vaccine approved by the FDA. While there is no proven vaccine for COVID-19 yet, the workgroup will review any vaccine that receives federal approval and verify its safety before California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada will make the vaccine available to the public.

Asked if the workgroup would slow down distribution of the vaccine, Newsom emphatically said it would not. “In fact, we would argue quite the contrary. It’s going to increase transparency and trust that I think we are looking for to make sure that we’re not doing anything to meet an arbitrary deadline or meet a political deadline,” he said. “We’re not just going to take someone’s assurance. We’re going to make sure that we’re objectively reviewing and being able to put our stamp of approval.”

Providing some clarity on what the workgroup would be reviewing, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said California will not be replicating trials. “We are looking at the information, the data that is, a lot of it is publicly reported, but through the eyes of experts can be strengthened and validated in the approach that California shares,” Ghaly said.

This is not the first time Western States have collaborated in response to COVID-19. In April, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Nevada joined in a Western States Pact which shared a vision for fighting COVID-19 and reopening their economies. Western State leaders in May urged congressional leaders to approve $1 trillion in COVID-19 relief for states and local governments and are partnering to pilot a project testing new exposure notification technology pioneered by Google and Apple. 

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