Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup Approves Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
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SPOKANE, Wash. – Governor Jay Inslee announced today that the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup approved use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
The Western States Workgroup, made up of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, conducted an independent review of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine data, following its emergency authorization from the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure it meets safety and efficacy criteria.
Dr. Francisco Velazquez, interim health officer for Spokane County, explained, “We now have three vaccines that are safe and highly effective against severe symptoms and mortality due to COVID-19. We have already conducted clinics for high-risk groups and those disproportionately affected by the pandemic and, with this additional vaccine, we will be able to expand to more providers, other high-risk groups and rural areas.”
The CDC established phases of distribution starting with individuals who are most at risk. Vaccinations have begun for those who work in health care and long-term care, have direct contact with those who are positive with COVID-19 and are unable to avoid such contact, as well as those who are most at risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19. This week, Governor Inslee announced educators and staff of K-12 schools and childcare are now eligible for vaccination as well. If you do not fall into these categories, you will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in a later phase. Washington State Department of Health (DOH) provided a timeline with preliminary phases that may change as public health officials learn more.
Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) is working closely with DOH in following their state specific interim playbook as well as the CDC playbook for vaccine distribution. The playbooks outline each step in the plan for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to the public. These plans guide local and federal planning efforts. Continuous meetings are held at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure information is shared with those critical to the planning efforts. The information about the vaccines and their availability is constantly being updated.
SRHD has created both a COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and an Advisory Group. Their purpose is to plan for future phases of the rollout and to work with community partners, social service agencies and health care systems to ensure equitable access and distribution of the vaccine.
“It is important to remember that vaccines are a critical tool for controlling this virus, and we encourage people to get vaccinated when their opportunity arises. In addition, maintaining our diligence in complying with public health guidance, by wearing face coverings, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing regularly, is critical until most people are vaccinated,” said Velazquez. “The best vaccine is the one available to you.”