Gov. Gavin Newsom has named a group of nationally acclaimed 11 California physician scientists with expertise in immunization and public health to the state’s COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup that will independently review the safety and efficacy of any vaccine that receives FDA approval for distribution. The list includes 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.

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.

The workgroup is a key piece of the state’s initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, which was submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many vaccine candidates are in clinical trials currently, and California is putting a system in place for the distribution and administration of vaccine as supply becomes available.

“Our response to COVID-19 has and will continue to lead with data and science including when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Newsom. “California leads in science and by bringing together our state’s brightest scientific minds, we can ensure that any vaccine distributed here meets safety requirements. Recognizing that supplies will be limited initially and the first doses of vaccines must go to health care workers, first responders and others who are especially vulnerable to this disease, we are working to ensure that administration and distribution of an approved vaccine is equitable.”

California’s planning process for the eventual distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccine is guided by the overarching principles of ensuring the COVID-19 vaccine meets safety requirements; ensuring that the vaccine is distributed and administered equitably, at first to those with the highest risk of becoming infected and spreading COVID-19; and transparency, by bringing in community stakeholders from the outset.

“While a small number of doses of an FDA-approved vaccine could be deployed before year’s end, the reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us well into 2021—and widespread vaccine distribution likely won’t occur for many more months,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Acting State Public Health Officer. “Across the country, states are seeing increases in COVID-19 transmission, but thanks to Californians’ adherence to our public health guidance and our slow and stringent reopening, that hasn’t happened yet here in California. Let’s keep it up—wear a mask, keep physical distance, limit contact outside your household and wash your hands.”