Newsletter: California’s vaccine plan

Gloved hands giving someone a shot in the arm
Neal Browning receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 in Seattle in March.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press )

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Oct. 20, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

It seems as if it’s only a matter of a time until there is a federally approved vaccine for the novel coronavirus. It would undoubtedly be a moment of great celebration, as well as one that ushers in a whole new Pandora’s box of questions amid an increasingly politically charged process. If you’re wondering what vaccine distribution would look like in California — and how we’d know it’s safe — you’re not alone.

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the state’s vaccine distribution plans during a Monday briefing and dropped an important piece of news: California will review the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines that receive federal approval before distributing them to the public.

“Of course, we don’t take anyone’s word for it,” Newsom said in regard to the vaccine process. “We will do our own independently reviewed process, with our world-class experts that just happen to live here in the state of California.”


Drawn from California’s “treasure trove” of physician scientists in the University of California system, at Stanford and in county and state health offices, a newly created 11-member Scientific Safety Review Workgroup will independently review any vaccine that receives federal approval and verify its safety. The state of New York previously announced a similar plan to independently review vaccines that receive federal approval.

[Read the story: “Newsom says California will review FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines before releasing them to public” in the Los Angeles Times]

Vaccinations will “move at the speed of trust,” Newsom said, underscoring that confidence in efficacy and distribution will be paramount to the process.

Newsom also aimed to temper expectations around timing, making clear that the state’s timeline bears little resemblance to the president’s promises of imminent delivery. If all goes well, it’s possible that two different drug companies that both have COVID-19 vaccines in trials could request emergency use authorizations for their separate vaccines as soon as mid-to-late November. If that’s the case, the governor said there could be very limited supplies of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available as early as November or December of this year, but nowhere near the amount needed to vaccinate all Californians. (The CDC’s most optimistic projection estimates that 35 to 45 million doses could be available nationwide by the end of the year; roughly 40 million people live in California alone.)

We don’t anticipate mass availability until 2021,” Newsom said, calling mid-2021 a realistic projection for when the general public might receive their shots. Healthcare workers and first responders will be prioritized first, followed by other high-risk groups, including the elderly and people in long-term care facilities, those with disabilities and incarcerated populations.

California is one of five jurisdictions in the country working with the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Defense on planning for vaccine distribution, and the state submitted its plans to the CDC last week. Storing vaccines, distributing them and ensuring Californians receive their required second dose will be a massive and massively complex logistical undertaking.

[See also: “As California braces for second wave of COVID-19, a statewide vaccine plan is taking shape” in the Los Angeles Times]

As my Sacramento colleague Taryn Luna noted in her story, Newsom’s insistence on an independent state review added to the uncertainty about COVID-19 vaccines just days after Dr. Anthony Fauci said he felt “strong confidence” in the safety of those approved by the Food and Drug Administration. A recent Pew Research Center poll found the American public to be roughly divided on whether they planned to get vaccinated, with the percentage of Americans who said they intended to get vaccinated having dropped significantly from May to September.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to rule on Trump’s immigration policies, but not until next year: The Supreme Court agreed Monday to render a verdict on the legality of President Trump’s use of military funds to pay for an expanded border wall as well as his “Remain in Mexico” policy preventing migrants seeking asylum from waiting in the United States until their claims are heard. The high court set arguments for early next year, likely releasing a decision in June. The pair of cases could prove highly significant if Trump is reelected next month, but may well be dismissed if an incoming Biden administration revokes the disputed policies in question. Los Angeles Times

Compton residents feel under siege from the Sheriff’s Department and are demanding reforms. Compton Mayor Aja Brown is among many there who have spoken out in recent months to demand changes in the way Compton is policed. The debate comes at a pivotal moment for the city, which is rebounding after decades of violence and economic decline, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is under growing scrutiny over how it patrols predominately non-white communities such as Compton. Los Angeles Times

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Journalist Yashar Ali accused Rick Jacobs, a top advisor to Mayor Eric Garcetti, of sexual misconduct. An LAPD officer who worked on the mayor’s security detail has also accused Jacobs of misconduct and filed a lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit alleges that Garcetti was present on some of the occasions when Jacobs allegedly harassed the officer. Los Angeles Times

Law enforcement reform roils an L.A. County supervisor race: Two veteran politicians, L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson and state Sen. Holly Mitchell, are vying to replace term-limited Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in the 2nd Supervisorial District. Los Angeles Times

Holly Mitchell and Herb Wesson
L.A. County supervisor candidates Holly Mitchell and Herb Wesson.
(Los Angeles Times)

Santa Monica’s police chief is stepping down amid anger over the handling of protests. Criticism of the department came from protesters and business owners. LAist

Channing Dungey will succeed Peter Roth as the incoming chairman of the Warner Bros. Television Group. The move, which will take effect early next year, comes amid a dramatic management makeover for the venerable Burbank studio and its parent company, WarnerMedia. Los Angeles Times

How the Dodgers and Rays match up position by position in the World Series. The Dodgers will face off against Tampa Bay in the Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

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President Trump reignited his feud with the nation’s top infectious-disease expert and said he was tired of hearing about the coronavirus as U.S. deaths from COVID-19 topped 220,000 and hospitalizations rose across the country, raising fears of a deadly third wave of infections as winter approaches. In a conference call intended to rally his beleaguered campaign staff two weeks before election day, Trump slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci as a “disaster” and insisted that Americans “are tired of listening to Fauci and these idiots.” Los Angeles Times

Voters in Rep. Devin Nunes’ congressional district are receiving unsolicited copies of “Countdown to Socialism,” a 90-page book Nunes wrote. Fresno Bee

Masks not required on election day: Nowhere in California will a voter who refuses to wear a mask be turned away, election officials said. Los Angeles Times

What Prop. 22’s defeat would mean for Uber and Lyft — and drivers. One way or another, the business of summoning a ride from your phone is likely to look different in California after Nov. 3. Los Angeles Times


A fire inside an official ballot drop box at the Baldwin Park library may have been set intentionally, authorities said. The Los Angeles County Registrar’s office said it would be increasing the frequency of pickup at all other ballot boxes. Los Angeles Times


A “missing piece” of historic Bay Area land will open to the public: The National Park Service is celebrating the acquisition of a historic farm in the Bay Area that will allow public access to 18,000 acres of open space and connect the Contra Costa County section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sacramento Bee

“Maybe 2020 is going to be a year-round shark season.” That is not a metaphor for anything, even if it might sound like it. There are just more sharks in the ocean off Southern California than ever before, according to marine researchers. Associated Press


Students are creating free tutoring services to help fellow students during the pandemic. Here’s how to access them. Los Angeles Times

Meet the 5-year-old who found Maki, the San Francisco Zoo’s kidnapped lemur. His preschool director initially thought the boy had to be mistaken and looking at a raccoon when the boy exclaimed, “There’s a lemur!” San Francisco Chronicle

Late-night takeout in Orange County? It does exist, and here are five of the best picks. Orange County Register

A poem to start your Tuesday: “Eyes Fastened with Pins” by Charles Simic. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 80. San Diego: sunny, 75. San Francisco: partly sunny, 71. San Jose: partly sunny, 84. Fresno: sunny, 87. Sacramento: sunny, 89. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Dave Westenbarger:

The setting: 1971 Berkeley, home of hippie weirdness. There was an installation of some sort, an inflated, interior-lit dome, like a bouncy house, but sealed. You entered a darkened room with the dome in the middle. You ducked and crawled through an air-lock into the dome. As a kindergartener, I rolled around on the waterbed “floor” while listening to psychedelic music and watching shapes and colors on the inside of the dome. It was fun and perfectly normal for a 5-year old. There were probably college students involved. Maybe it was an art thesis? Does anyone else remember this or did I hallucinate it (along with the photo I still have)?

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.