Oregon, Washington and Nevada joined forces with California Tuesday to vet any vaccine for COVID-19 before distributing it to the public.
“The independent review conducted by this panel of doctors, scientists, and health experts will ensure that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is available to everyone, especially communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this disease,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in a press release.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom created the COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup in late September to independently review the safety and effectiveness of any COVID-19 vaccine, once one is approved by the FDA.
Public trust in vaccine efforts has eroded as Operation Warp Speed, the president’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, became increasingly politicized. According to a September Gallup poll, only about half of Americans are willing to take a COVID-19 vaccination. Public trust in vaccine dropped from 60% to 50% in just one month, while president Donald Trump pushed officials to release a vaccine before the election, and the FDA temporarily eased the vaccine approval process.
The FDA has since instated a more rigorous process, but public distrust remains.
“Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers, based on the federal government’s opinion,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in late September. The National Medical Association, which is comprised of Black doctors, has also created a similar review panel.
Public health experts have raised concerns about the public perception of the vaccine project. They’re worried that even if the vaccine is safe and effective, the public won’t trust it, and won’t get vaccinated. The hope is that extra vetting will help restore some of that trust.
Not everyone agrees with this plan. Dr. Saad Omar, an epidemiologist at the Yale Institute of Global Health, worries that if states take vaccine safety into their own hands, there could be public confusion.
“Do you really want a situation where Texas, Alabama and Arkansas are making drastically different vaccine policies than New York, California and Massachusetts?” Omar asked NBC.
The review group will also evaluate plans for vaccine distribution. When the vaccine first becomes available, doses will be limited. States are asking hard questions about how to prioritize vaccinations, and where they’ll have the most impact.
Oregon previously joined forces with California, Nevada, and Washington to coordinate re-opening efforts in the Western States Pact.