California Lays Out Plan for Covid Vaccine Rollout

Screenshot of California Gov. Gavin Newsom giving an update on the state’s plan to roll out the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.

(CN) — When the first wave of Covid-19 vaccines roll out in California, they will be reserved for first responders and people in high-risk categories — meaning the general public will likely have to wait until 2021 before they can get one, Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.

California will also have a group of medical experts that will independently verify any Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine when it is made available, said Newsom during a Covid-19 briefing. The state is currently looking at two vaccines for planning purposes which will require two doses within 21 days.

“This vaccine plan will move at the speed of trust,” Newsom said Monday. “You have to have confidence in the efficacy of the vaccine, confidence that we’re not rushing to judgment in terms of its distribution, in its accessibility — making sure again that we’re a third set of eyes, a second set of eyes.”

The Democratic governor presented a series of logistical challenges the state will face when a vaccine is announced. That first wave will be reserved for first responders and at-risk groups, including the elderly. Newsom said Californians should not expect “mass availability until 2021” despite some of the “audacious stretch goals” that have come from the Trump administration.

Earlier this month, the FDA all but confirmed there will not be a vaccine before Election Day. The agency also said it will not speed up the approval of any vaccine that its developers cannot monitor for at least two months after testing in human trials.

California submitted its own distribution plan to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

Newsom said pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna are just two of the companies developing possible vaccines that the state is reviewing.

Transportation and storage of the vaccines will prove to be major obstacles. Any possible vaccine will need ultra-cold storage of minus 158 degrees or cold storage at minus 68 degrees Fahrenheit depending on which vaccine the state chooses, as well as the supplies needed to vaccinate an entire state — needles, bandages, masks, dry ice and other equipment, Newsom said.

The logistics behind getting the vaccine to parts of the world that do not have access to nonstop sterile refrigeration could leave billions untreated according to World Health Organization.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require different storage and transportation strategies and there’s also the logistics of distributing the vaccines to urban centers and into rural areas that are underserved.

“Vaccines will not end this epidemic overnight. The bottom line is even if millions and millions of Americans, millions of Californians get the vaccination, get that second shot over the 21-day period,” Newsom said.

As of Monday, California has reported over 878,000 confirmed Covid-19 infections since the onset of the pandemic. Nearly 17,000 Californians have died.

Newsom stressed the need for residents to maintain the infection controls that have been in place since March.

“Which again, means a simple thing: it’s flu season after all. Just washing your hands and doing the things that your grandmother reminded you of when you were raised,” said Newsom.

Counties across the state remain under strict health orders based on the spread of the virus. State health officials said there were over 3,400 new infections in the last 24 hours, and just under 3,000 in the 7-day average.

Hospitalizations across the state are starting to plateau but ICU admissions over the last seven days increased slightly, Newsom said.

“This is that dreaded third wave that some had projected. For California this may be better termed a second wave, because we never experienced that first wave like many did in the northeast part of the United States,” Newsom said, noting California’s first wave was extended in July. “Nonetheless, second or third wave, this is what all epidemiologists, the scientists and anyone that followed our history or data from 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic, this is what we anticipate moving into the colder season, moving into a season where more of us are moving inside … This is an area of obvious and real concern and that’s why we’re being very sober and forgive me, stubborn about some industries in this state that are eager to get guidelines.”

Newsom said the state expects to announce guidelines for the resumption of sporting events and reopening of theme parks by Tuesday.

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