SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California is adding an extra layer of protection to its COVID-19 vaccine approval process, with a newly announced "COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup."
A committee of 11 California doctors, including physicians from San Francisco's Department of Public Health, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Stanford - have been named to the group.
"These experts will independently review and monitor any vaccine trials to guarantee the safety, to guarantee the equity, and to guarantee the transparency of the distribution of our vaccines," explained Governor Newsom, at his Monday press briefing.
When it comes to potential COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Newsom said that just because the FDA might approve it, doesn't mean California will. "Of course we don't take anyone's word for it. We will do our own independently reviewed process, with our world-class experts."
UCSF epidemiologist, Dr. George Rutherford, is not on the committee but knows many of the experts who are, and feels the new review group is a positive step. "There's enough distrust of the vaccine going around as it is that if a committee like this takes an extra week hopefully, or a few days, to actually add it's imprimatur to the vaccine approval process, and that encourages a greater proportion of people to get vaccinated, then it's hugely important and it'll be a big win."
When asked if he had any concern that the new committee might delay getting people a vaccine as soon as possible, Dr. Rutherford said. "I think that this is kind of one meeting, let's make sure we get to look at the data and make sure there's nothing being obfuscated and then give thumbs up. I think it's really going to be pretty quick."
Dr. Rutherford also thinks the review process could improve vaccination rates in California by adding more assurances that any potential vaccine is safe and effective.
Even if vaccines get FDA emergency use authorization this year, Governor Newsom says people should not expect widespread distribution until 2021.
The members of the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup named Monday are:
- Chairman Dr. Arthur L. Reingold, the Division Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the UC Berkeley, School of Public Health.
- Dr. Tomás Aragón, the Health Officer of City & County of San Francisco, and Director of the Population Health Division at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
- Ambassador Eric Goosby is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Global Health Delivery, Diplomacy and Economics, Institute for Global Health Sciences, at the University of California, San Francisco.
- Dr. Rodney Hood, the president and founder of the Multicultural Health Foundation and the past president of the National Medical Association and a Board Trustee of Alliance Healthcare Foundation.
- Dr. Nicola P. Klein, a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, and director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.
- Dr. Grace Lee, a professor of pediatrics specializing in infectious diseases at the Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.
- Dr. Yvonne (Bonnie) Maldonado, a professor and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics at Stanford Medicine.
- Dr. Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist at Rady Children's Hospital and a professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego and the medical director of the UC San Diego San Diego Immunization Partnership.
- Dr. Rob Schechter, Chief of California Department of Public Health's Immunization Branch.
- Dr. Peter Szilagyi, a pediatric health services and clinical researcher at UCLA with an overall mission to improve access to health care, quality of care, and health outcomes for children.
- Dr. Matt Zahn, the Medical Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Assessment for the Orange County Health Care Agency. He served as chair for the Immunization Advisory Workgroup for the National Association of County and City Health Officials from 2009 to 2012.
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