CA COVID workgroup co-chair talks about crafting vaccine framework

Dr. Oliver Brooks, the chief medical officer at Watts Healthcare in Los Angeles, helps make the difficult decisions about who gets a COVID-19 vaccine in California and when.

"It's been trying to thread a needle, that's what it feels like," said Dr. Brooks.  

He's the co-chair of California's vaccine drafting guidelines workgroup, made up of 16 medical experts. Dr. Brooks says the group's guiding principles are equity, transparency and safety. 

"Those that had high risk exposure, those that have significant effect on society, equity and effect on the economy," said Dr. Brooks. 

The first phase of the vaccine rollout in the state included healthcare workers and long-term care residents. Now, shots are going to people 65 and older as well as people in the education, emergency service and food and agriculture sectors. After a slow start and scarcity still an issue, the state shifted its framework last month to a system primariliy based on age. 

"It was allowing us to get the vaccine out more rapidly, more points of distribution," said Dr. Brooks. "You show your license, you’re 65, you get vaccinated."

The move upset some disability advocates, but the governor hinted this week that the guidelines may be shifting again to address those concerns. The governor also said the state would soon release data related to who is getting inoculated and where. Dr. Brooks said that information is critical to ensure equity.  

"Race, ethnicity, zip code will all be captured," said Dr. Brooks.  "You can only work if you have the knowledge and data."

Dr. Brooks reminds poeple more adjustments could come depending on how the rollout continues.  The doctor said new mass vaccination centers like the Oakland Coliseum will help reach their goal of equitable delivery. But, he wants to see more done to reach the most underserved communities.

"I would like to see some creative action to get people there," said Dr. Brooks.  "If the city, the county can get the vaccine there, let’s get the people there."