Gov. Jay Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee

Saturday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup the authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine.

The Western States Workgroup, comprised of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, have been meeting to review the data and analysis to ensure the safety and efficacy of all vaccines federally authorized, according to a press release. Recently, the Federal Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave initial authorization to the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m pleased that the Western States Workgroup gave their unanimous recommendation to the vaccine last night and encourages immediate use of the vaccine in our states,” Inslee said during a press conference Sunday morning. “It cannot come soon enough — with Washington closing in on 200,000 total COVID cases and approaching 3,000 deaths — this help is much needed to prevent further infection, hospitalization and loss of life.”

Workgroup members hope that the independent review inspires confidence in Washingtonians around the vaccine’s safety, according to the press release.

“After looking at all of the available data, our workgroup unanimously agreed that at this time the benefits of this vaccine greatly exceed any theoretical risks,” workgroup member Dr. John Dunn said. “I personally am reassured by the safety profile and look forward to being vaccinated as soon as I am eligible.”

According to the press release, the first of the vaccine doses were expected to start arriving from the federal government Monday while the first vaccines could be administered as soon as Tuesday.

Vaccinations will first be administered in health care and long-term care facilities and tribal governments across the state, the press release stated. Health systems and local public health departments are preparing for the arrival and distribution of the vaccine. Inslee said residents should still take precautions against COVID-19.

“We can’t let up on masking, physical distancing and restrictions on indoor activities,” he said in the press release. “We need to continue to slow the rate of infection as we work to get Washingtonians vaccinated. We must keep up the fight a little longer and I know we will get through this, together.”

For more information about COVID-19, go to https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources.