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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Election Updates

UC researchers named to new state advisory group overseeing vaccine development

Gov. Gavin Newsom assembled a team of researchers and medical experts to advise California officials on the creation and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Justin Jung/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Elizabeth Sherwood

Oct. 21, 2020 3:57 p.m.

UCLA and University of California researchers will lead a team that will advise California officials on a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom named a Scientific Safety Review Workgroup in a press release Monday, which will help California government officials vet a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available and help officials develop a plan to distribute the vaccine.

Newsom selected Peter Szilagyi, a pediatric health researcher at UCLA, as one of 11 researchers, university professors and health specialists that will serve on the workgroup. Other UC personnel chosen for the workgroup include Arthur Reingold, a epidemiology and biostatistics researcher at UC Berkeley, Eric Goosby, a medicine professor at UC San Francisco and Mark Sawyer, a professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego.

The researchers chosen to serve on the workgroup will be some of the first to review any proposed vaccinations before they are distributed, Newsom said in the press release.

“While there is no proven vaccine for COVID-19 yet, these top health experts – guided by the principles of safety, equity and transparency – will review any vaccine that receives federal approval and verify its safety, before California makes a COVID-19 vaccine available to those most at risk,” according to the press release from Newsom’s office.

Szilagyi said the workgroup will primarily work alongside the California Department of Public Health to decide whether or not proposed vaccines are both safe and effective. The group will then formulate a recommendation for vaccine’s distribution, Szilagyi said.

“Our group is being guided by the following principles: vaccine safety, vaccine efficacy, equity in providing the vaccines to the California population (including minority subgroups) and transparency in the process,” Szilagyi said.

As of now, the state is still in the planning stages, Szilagyi said. There are a few formulations of a vaccine currently going through the advanced stages of trials, he added.

Newsom said in a press conference Monday that a COVID-19 vaccine will realistically be available to all Californians in the second quarter of 2021.

The number of COVID-19 vaccines available in the near future will be very limited and priority will be given to high-risk groups, Newsom said.

[Related link: UCLA health panel talks importance of communities of color in vaccine research]

The vaccine will first be distributed to essential workers, people with disabilities, certain communities of color, rural populations and people who are incarcerated, Newsom added.

Newsom said that several challenges must be addressed before the vaccine can be distributed statewide, including the provision of medical supplies, creation of safe storage locations and immunization protocols.

There have been more than 870,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 in California as of Tuesday, according to the CADPH.

Newsom said he urges Californians to trust state health officials as they proceed with the development of the vaccination plan. However, the vaccine will not immediately end the pandemic, he added.

“The bottom line is, even if millions and millions of Americans, millions of Californians get the vaccination … (vaccines) are not going to end this epidemic overnight,” Newsom said.

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Elizabeth Sherwood | Assistant News editor
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
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