Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that Californians should not anticipate “mass availability” of a COVID-19 vaccine until 2021 — and even the governor is unsure at what point during 2021 most people can expect to have access to a vaccine.
Before that, a team of independent scientists from California will verify its safety and efficacy, Newsom announced Monday.
“When we talk vaccinations, don’t anticipate or expect that you’ll be able to go down to a pharmacy anytime this calendar year and get a vaccination,” he said. “We hope that’s the case, but based on all the evidence, all the data that we have been provided, and the expertise we have been able to glean … it is simply unrealistic to expect.”
As one of five jurisdictions working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the logistics of distributing a vaccine, California health officials are privy to the details of the two of the most promising vaccine candidates, Newsom said.
When it’s time to review the vaccine, a Scientific Safety Review Workgroup will offer an analysis independent of the federal agencies. The group, announced Monday, is made up of 11 scientists around California and chaired by Dr. Arthur L. Reingold, the Division Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UC Berkeley.
California will not release any vaccines until the governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force independently reviews and approves them.
The task force will “review the assertions, they’ll make independent determinations of the veracity and efficacy of these immunizations and doses,” Newsom said.
Newsom estimated there would be 45 million doses available nationally by the end of the year “on the high end,” he said. Of those, California would receive 12%, or about 5 million, of the initial doses to cover the patients and workers in the state’s health care system, who will be prioritized.
According to the state’s vaccination plan, it will first focus on vaccinating healthcare personnel likely treating patients with COVID-19 and likely to be exposed to COVID-19. Then the state will expand its distribution to people at increased risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19 and other essential workers.
“Due to the size and complexity of California’s population, there will be multiple levels of allocation. All allocation decisions will be data-driven with an emphasis on equity and on protecting California’s critical and vulnerable populations, especially during the early phases when vaccine supply will be limited,” the plan states.
The two leading vaccine candidates present unique logistical challenges: each requires storage at temperatures between 20 and 70 degrees below zero celsius. California is already planning to stockpile dry ice, Newsom said.
On top of that, each vaccine requires two doses, administered 21 days apart, adding another potential complication.
Mass distribution won’t come until 2021 at the earliest, Newsom said. But as for when?
“It simply depends on who you talk to,” Newsom said. “Those who are more optimistic say Q1 (January to March), those who are more realistic the middle of 2021 and those who on the spectrum of being a little more pessimistic are looking at Q3 (July to September) of 2021.”
Check back for updates.