California has started building a framework for how it'll obtain and distribute COVID-19 vaccines as three medical companies, Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, move closer to getting approval from the FDA.
The vaccines would be distributed in phases, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during remote press conference on Monday. The first group to receive is healthcare workers, people in assisted living and nursing facilities and first responders.
He said the state is awaiting the FDA's approval of one of three vaccines currently undergoing clinical trials and that have reported seeing promising results.
California has three committees that will review COVID-19 vaccines before they're distributed. So far, the committees have not found any issues with the current vaccine trials for Pfizer and Moderna.
Newsom said state health officials are in direct contact with Pfizer and McKesson, the distributor for Moderna. The state is also working to procure 77 freezers, 16 of which reach ultra low temperatures, to store Pfizer's vaccines.
The governor added that state health officials are also looking at the H1N1 outbreak and flu vaccinations plan to formulate guidelines for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine.
But he said planning for the subsequent phases of distribution would still take more time. Newsom reminded people that mass vaccination is still months away.
"Mass vaccinations is unlikely to occur anytime soon. For the back of the envelope purposes, March, April, May, June, July, where we start to scale, and we start getting into the subsequent phases (of vaccine distribution)," he said.
Meanwhile, California continues to see a surging COVID-19 spread, which Dr. Mark Ghaly said is still a concern as we enter the Thanksgiving holiday.
"We need to just be very careful. We know that our hospitals already are seeing levels of surge that they've never seen before, even at the height of our June and July peak of cases. We now have hospitals across the state that are telling us census, the number of people with COVID-19 in their hospitals is higher than it's ever been," Ghaly said.
Hospitalizations were also up 77% in the last seven days, and ICU admission rates increased 55%. The governor said 7% of the state's hospital capacity were coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, 17% of the state's ICU capacity was treating COVID-19 patients.
The governor said hospitals across the state are expecting to see a rise in cases after Thanksgiving.
On Monday, the state reported 8,337 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 1,110,370. California's seven-day positivity rate was 5.8%, up from last week's 4.6%.
Newsom said people between the ages 18 and 49 make up 60% of all the new COVID-19 in the state.
Dr. Ghaly said he expects "a handful of counties" to move to a more restrictive tier on Tuesday.
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