Saturday, February 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 52

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 17th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 51 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 51

Santa Barbara County opens up vaccine to those 65 and older

By Malea Martin

Santa Barbara County is now in phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, meaning those aged 65 and older can register to get their shots. But others included in that phase—agricultural workers, teachers, child care providers, and emergency services personnel—will have to keep waiting.

“This expanded eligibility means that the local health providers, pharmacies, hospitals, and public vaccination sites can open appointments to those 65 and above once the vaccines become available to them,” county Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said at a Feb. 12 press conference.

But despite this progression, Do-Reynoso said the county’s vaccine allocation is still limited to 6,000 first doses a week.

Santa Barbara County has no trouble mustering the manpower to administer its vaccine allocations: 99 percent of received doses had been administered on Feb. 12. The limiting factor, however, is the amount of vaccines the county receives weekly.

The move to open vaccinations to those 65 and older, but not the rest of phase 1B, is a departure from what county officials indicated earlier this month. At a Feb. 5 press conference, Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said the county would open up this tier simultaneously. But without a larger weekly allocation, this is not yet possible, Do-Reynoso said Feb. 12.

“I know that there are community members in the child care and education field, and there are food and agricultural workers, and there are community members in the emergency services, who are also anxious to get the vaccines,” Do-Reynoso said. 

Ansorg told the Sun that the hope to vaccinate phase 1B concurrently “was the plan considering everything we knew at the time.” But now, given current circumstances, the county must take a staggered approach. 

“The reason is that just the 65-plus are a cohort of 41,000 individuals,” he said via email. “As our local allocation continues to stagger around 6,000 vaccines per week, we simply do not have capacity for everyone in phase 1B, tier 1 to access vaccines at this time.”

Public health departments across California continue to serve as the vaccine intermediary between the state and community providers, but Blue Shield of California will become the state’s third party administrator in mid-March. And starting March 15, California officials recently announced, “people between the age of 16 and 64 who are disabled or at high risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 will be eligible to be vaccinated … as vaccines become available,” according to Do-Reynoso. Once Blue Shield of California takes over, vaccine prioritization will no longer be in the county’s hands.

Do-Reynoso said after eligibility is opened to the at-risk 16 to 64 group, vaccine appointments will then open to the rest of phase 1B. However, this can change depending on availability and allocations.

“For entities who are receiving direct allocations from the state, or the federal government … here in our county, it is Marian Regional Medical Center and UCSB, they currently receive separate allocations from the state, they may move towards a pilot basis to vaccinate those in phase 1B, such as the emergency services, the food and ag workers, and education and child care,” Do-Reynoso said. 

Health care providers must also balance the need to administer second doses, Do-Reynoso said.

Though doses continue to be limited, the county has no trouble distributing and administering the vaccines it does receive. 

“We, as of today, have received 61,000 doses,” Do-Reynoso said Feb. 12. “We have administered 99 percent of the doses that we have received, and that is a huge celebration for our community.” 

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