December 23, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health
California is scheduled to receive doses of a second vaccine that has been approved for use against COVID-19.
The vaccine, made by Moderna, was approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials on December 18. The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup – a group of scientists and public health experts convened by the governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – completed its review a day later, with California officials agreeing to adopt the vaccine.
The initial shipment of the Moderna vaccine will include 672,000 doses for California. That is in addition to more than 560,000 initial expected doses of the Pfizer vaccine, of which over 70,000 doses were administered last week. The Moderna vaccine is only approved for adults aged 18 and older, while Pfizer’s is approved for use in those as young as 16.
Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna product also requires patients to receive two doses, about three weeks apart. That means 672,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are enough to fully vaccinate more than 335,000 Californians.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the one manufactured by Moderna does not require ultra-cold storage, which should make it easier to distribute to facilities across California. The Moderna vaccine must be stored at -4° F compared to Pfizer’s -94° F storage needs.
Both vaccines have been found to have a greater than 94% efficacy rate in inoculating people against COVID-19.
California is still in Phase 1a of its vaccine distribution, which prioritizes 2.4 million paid and unpaid health care personnel including physicians, nurses and technicians who are treating patients with COVID-19 and/or likely to be exposed to COVID-19. The guidelines for the next phase of vaccine recipients, Phase 1b, is currently being discussed by the state’s Drafting Guidelines Workgroup and the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee, but has focused to date on essential workers.
The California Medical Association has launched a new COVID-19 vaccine resources page to keep you updated on the latest news surrounding the vaccines, along with a Frequently Asked Questions section for physicians. You can find the page at cmadocs.org/covid-19/vaccine.