Panel of doctors, scientists, and health experts to review safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines as they receive emergency FDA approval
Salem, OR—Governor Kate Brown today announced the Oregon doctors who will be serving on the Western States’ Scientific Safety Review Workgroup
with doctors, scientists, and health experts from California, Nevada, and Washington. The workgroup will review the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines that receive Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For Oregon, Governor Brown has named Dr. Laura Byerly and Dr. Louis Picker to the workgroup.
“In Oregon, and across the country, we are facing the greatest challenges of this pandemic. But hope is on the way,” said Governor Brown. “This workgroup will help ensure that the vaccines Oregonians receive are safe, effective, and equitably available to everyone, especially the communities that have been disproportionately devastated by COVID-19.”
Dr. Laura Byerly, M.D., has served as the Medical Director of Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center since 2013. The health center serves Washington and Yamhill counties with access to high-quality, culturally-appropriate health care. She also currently serves as the co-chair of the Yamhill Community Care Organization quality and clinical advisory panel, and the chair of the Clinical Oversight Group for the Oregon Community Health Information Network (OCHIN). She is also a former chair of the CareOregon Quality Improvement Committee and has served as an adjunct professor for the OHSU Family Medicine Residency Medical Program. She received her undergraduate degree from Reed College, and completed her medical training at the OHSU School of Medicine.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Byerly has partnered with the Washington and Yamhill County Public Health departments to improve testing access for underserved and at-risk communities, and advocated for policies that increased access to vulnerable populations. She also created a Virginia Garcia Covid Response Team (VG CoRe Team) that focuses solely on outreach to the community for increased access to testing and, soon, vaccinations.
Dr. Louis Picker, M.D, is associate director of Oregon Health & Science University’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, where he heads the vaccine program. He also is a professor of pathology/molecular microbiology and immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine.
Dr. Picker is a leader in the search for an HIV vaccine. He and his colleagues at OHSU’s VGTI developed a promising HIV vaccine based on a first-of-its kind vaccine technology platform using a form of the common herpes virus cytomegalovirus. This vaccine can prevent nonhuman primates from contracting infection with SIV, the simian version of HIV. This novel vaccine platform, licensed by Vir Biotechnology of San Francisco, also has led to a new highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis. Both the TB and HIV vaccine candidates are moving toward testing in human clinical trials.
Dr. Picker received his undergraduate degree in bacteriology at University of California Los Angeles and his medical degree at the University of California San Francisco. After residency training in pathology at Beth Israel Hospital Boston, and postdoctoral training in immunology at Stanford University Medical Center, he was appointed assistant professor and then associate professor of pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He joined OHSU in 1999.
In addition, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, M.D., State Health Officer and State Epidemiologist for the Public Health Division at the Oregon Health Authority, will be working with staff from the Governor's Office and the Oregon Health Authority to advise and support the workgroup.
The workgroup has held planning and organizational meetings since it was first announced in October. As COVID-19 vaccines are expected to soon receive emergency authorization from the FDA, the workgroup will conduct a review of available data to ensure safety and effectiveness.
In addition to the Western States’ Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, the Oregon Health Authority is forming a Vaccine Advisory Committee––a decision-making group that will work with OHA to co-create a final vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes communities most affected by COVID-19 and those impacted by past and current health inequities. The committee will guide the development of a prioritization and allocation model that will be followed by OHA in its distribution of vaccines. It will support communication and community engagement strategies to build trust and increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.
For media, headshots are available here of Dr. Byerly
and Dr. Picker