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Three Western states join California's independent review of COVID-19 vaccine

Rachel La Corte
Associated Press

A handful of Western states have joined California in a pact to independently review the safety and efficacy of any coronavirus vaccine that is ultimately approved by the FDA before any distribution occurs in those states, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday.

Last week, California was the first to announce such a plan, and Newsom said the independent review would happen regardless of who wins next week’s presidential election. Washington, Oregon and Nevada are part of the pact, according to Newsom's office. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month appointed a similar independent task force. 

“We would like to give Washingtonians the highest confidence that when a COVID-19 vaccine is available that it’s safe and works,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a news conference, saying the review is an added layer of assurance in order to encourage more people to get the vaccine once available.

Inslee stressed that the public health experts in the group will concurrently be reviewing publicly released data before FDA approval of a vaccine, and that any decision by the group should come within days after federal approval.

“We know how pressing this need is,” he said. 

He said the panel will not be reviewing whether the vaccine should be mandatory in any instances, and that no one has proposed that. But he said he was “cautiously optimistic” that most people would choose to get the vaccine.

“We want to get back to as close to normal as we can, and that means if we get a vaccine to actually use it,” he said.

Inslee noted that any rollout of a vaccine will take time, and Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state’s health officer, encouraged people to continue to wear facial coverings when around others.

“This really simple intervention can save lives,” she said.

Last week, Washington's Department of Health released its draft plan to distribute vaccine doses in several phases.

The state’s plan would first prioritize the vaccine to limited, high-risk workers in health care settings, first responders, other essential workers and adults in long-term care facilities. The state then plans to make the vaccine accessible in a “broad network of provider settings” such as pharmacies, community health centers and occupational health clinics. The third phase would address gaps in populations with inequitable access.