By Mimi Dwyer
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A California panel of experts will independently review the safety of new coronavirus vaccines and initial plans for distribution, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.
The 11-person panel specializing in topics such as epidemiology, biostatistics, and infectious disease will review any vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration before it is distributed to state residents, Newsom told a news conference.
“These are top health experts that will independently review any FDA-approved vaccines,” he said. “We will do our own independently reviewed process with our world-class experts that just happen to live here in the state of California.”
The U.S. government’s efforts to speed development of a COVID-19 vaccine – and promises by U.S. President Donald Trump that one could be available prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election – has led to concerns of political interference in the regulatory process at the expense of safety. The FDA has vowed to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines before approving them.
New York will conduct a similar review of federally approved vaccines, Governor Andrew Cuomo said last month.
The California panel will review the vaccine’s safety regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, Newsom said.
Newsom cautioned that even under the most optimistic projections a vaccine will not be widely available to California residents before next year.
“Don’t anticipate or expect that you can go down to the local pharmacy any time in this calendar year and likely get a vaccination,” he said.
The state will prioritize healthcare workers and other first responders initially in distribution.
(Reporting by Mimi Dwyer; editing by Bill Tarrant and Sam Holmes)