Newsom suggests when mass vaccination could be available in California

With three COVID-19 vaccines now showing promising results, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a Monday press conference the state is preparing for delivery and distribution, but widespread availability to the public is still months away.

As Newsom has said before, he noted the state’s health care workers will be the first in line to receive inoculations and this could happen before the end of the year.

“Mass vaccination is unlikely to occur any time soon,” Newsom said. “March, April, June, July, that’s where we start to scale.”

The Food and Drug Administration is likely to approve one or more vaccines in early December, and Newsom said the state is ready to act quickly with the wheels already in motion.

California launched a community advisory committee of community groups, school leaders and nonprofit organizations to advise on distribution and allocation. A draft of the Phase 1a allocation, targeting 2.4 million health care workers across the state, is due Dec. 1.

Next, the committee will look at allocation of vaccines to individuals in congregate care, the medically vulnerable, medical first responders and those involved in safety infrastructure.

Earlier this month, drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna reported preliminary results from late-stage trials revealing their COVID-19 vaccines were almost 95% effective. AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its vaccine is highly effective, and unlike the others, this one doesn’t have to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it potentially less expensive and easier to distribute.

Newsom said the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are likely to be distributed first in “very limited supplies.”

“The first round of vaccinations will be extraordinarily limited,” he said. “We begin with a framework of scarcity.”

The state’s scientific safety review workgroup has already reviewed the Phase I and II study data on both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and will be able to review the Phase III data close to when the FDA and CDC receive information to expedite the review and avoid any delay.

The most populated state in the country, California has implemented mass vaccinations in the past, administering tens of millions of routine vaccines on a yearly basis, and will draw from this experience. Last season, 19 million flu vaccines doses were given across three to four months. During the H1N1 pandemic, local health departments doubled the routine administered doses, according to the governor.

“We’re not starting from scratch … we’re building off this rich experience,” Newsom said. “We’re building off existing infrastructure at the state and local level and a history of partnerships that have been organized at all levels.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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