Nikki Laurenzo and Frank Buckley hosted California’s surgeon general, several state senators and a panel of medical experts for “Inside California Politics COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall: Ending the Pandemic.”
California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris says the state has been ramping up its ability to get the vaccine to people.
“We will be limited only by supply, that’s what we’ve been working hard on,” Harris said.
Harris added that even when Californians become vaccinated, it will be important to continue social distancing and wearing masks while the state achieves community immunity.
Harris also addressed why the state’s vaccine rollout has been skewed toward richer, whiter communities, with fewer doses going to the most vulnerable areas. She said that as California began vaccinating its residents, it started with health care workers.
And although that decision helped reinforce California’s medical system, Latinos and African Americans were underrepresented in the vaccine rollout.
“Unfortunately, the demographics of our health care providers doesn’t reflect the diversity of California,” Harris said.
Harris mentioned Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that underserved communities would be allotted 40% of vaccine doses. But that decision hasn’t come without concerns.
“I assure you there are no doses that are going to go unused,” Harris said. “If there are excess vaccines left at the end of the day, they can be released on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Harris added that the state has an obligation to help underserved communities.
“We want to make sure they have a fair shake,” Harris said.
State Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins responded to concerns that the state’s school reopening plan will benefit wealthy districts and leave out vulnerable communities.
“We’re doing everything we can to cover all of those bases, we want everyone to be protected but we want our kids to be able to go back to school,” Atkins said.
Atkins says money will go to places that need the funding to safely reopen.
When it comes to mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, says it is not the time for mandates.
“They actually aren’t approved for children yet, and we actually still have a shortage of vaccine in terms of trying to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine,” Pan said.
There have also been issues when it comes to vaccinating those who want it.
Some Californians have misused appointment codes to jump the line and get a vaccine shot. State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, says those people should probably be punished, but officials should instead focus on making the system better.
For residents who are still unsure about getting a vaccine, Pan advises Californians to not just “look at your Facebook feed.”
He recommends Californians go to trusted sources such as the California Department of Public Health or speak to their doctors.
A panel of medical experts answered questions about leftover vaccine doses, concerns about side effects, accessibility and the issue of some health care workers foregoing a COVID-19 vaccination.
“You can never really know for sure what long effects there might be,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, an infectious disease expert from Stanford Medicine.
But Maldonado says decades worth of experience with vaccines helps health officials track safety signals, and that there have been no safety concerns so far.
Dr. David Lubarsky, UC Davis Health CEO, said although long-term effects of the vaccine are unknown and unlikely, some people who get COVID-19 are known to get long-hauler effects such as fatigue and malaise.
“The vaccine is infinitely better than taking the risk of getting COVID,” Lubarsky said.
Addressing a question about health care workers foregoing the COVID-19 vaccine, Lubarsky says about 95% of health care workers at UC Davis got the vaccine.
Inside California Politics, hosted by Nikki Laurenzo and Frank Buckley airs weekly on six Nexstar stations across from the state: FOX40 in Sacramento, KRON4 in San Francisco, KTLA in Los Angeles, KGET in Bakersfield, KSEE24 in Fresno and FOX5 in San Diego.