COVID-19 Vaccinations Open to Age 65 and Older
By edhat staff
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) announced COVID-19 vaccinations will open to anyone age 65 and older next week but warned vaccine supply is still limited.
Residents of Santa Barbara County who are age 65 and older will be eligible to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Tuesday, February 16. This expanded eligibility means that local health care providers, pharmacies, hospitals, and PHD vaccination sites can open appointments to those 65+ once vaccines become available to them.
Vaccine supplies are still very limited and health care providers are simultaneously ensuring those that received the first dose will also be able to receive a second dose. Appointments will also be limited.
“We ask that until vaccine supply increases, the community allow those at greatest risk for exposure and serious health outcomes to make their vaccine appointments first,” said Van Do-Reynoso, PHD Director. “The entire community will have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and work toward the community as a whole being safe from the risks of the virus.”
Just under 6,000 doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in Santa Barbara County next week, the vast majority of which are slated for second doses. Approximately 11,000 second doses will be administered in the next two weeks. Santa Barbara County currently has more than 40,000 residents between the ages of 65-74 years old. Appointments will likely become available through health care providers and pharmacies before they become available at Public Health vaccination sites.
“We are excited to open appointments to vulnerable community members to have their first access to the vaccine” said, Dr. Do-Reynoso. “We are continuing to make progress in vaccine administration based on the maximum allocation Santa Barbara County is able to request from the state.”
Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg confirmed PHD decided to separate Phase 1B, delaying vaccination for education/childcare, emergency medical service, and food/agricultural workers by approximately two weeks. He said most negative outcomes regarding COVID-19 are in people aged 65 or older and the limited supply led to separating vaccine administration in this group.
As of Friday, PHD has received 61,000 doses of vaccine and 99% have been administered. Approximately 45,000 of the first dose have been administered and 14,000 of the second dose.
Dr. Ansorg stated the county has approximately vaccinated two-thirds of the 75 years of age and older population. He estimated about 70% of this population wanted the vaccine with the other 30% deciding not to receive it, however, the option to receive the vaccine is open at any time.
Upcoming Eligibilities and Vaccine Distribution Changes
California officials announced that starting on March 15, people between the ages of 16 and 64 who have a severe underlying health condition or are at risk due to a developmental or other severe disability will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
This will include people with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic pulmonary disease, down syndrome, an immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, heart conditions, severe obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Also in mid-March, California will transition vaccine distribution to a Third-Pary Administrator (TPA), Blue Shield of California. This means the local public health department will not be in charge of the vaccine supply but instead will be given allocations from Blue Shield. PHD stated there will be local changes in the way vaccine is administered and more information will be shared as it is known.
Dr. Ansorg stated the vaccine shortage could have been averted if the federal government shipped the number of doses that were initially promised, at least triple of what ended up being available. Fortunately, the production is ramping up nationally and it's possible anyone over the age of 16 could get the vaccine by the end of April, he said.
Additionally, community healthcare centers and pharmacies are expecting to receive vaccine allocations directly from the federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will also open mass vaccination sites in Los Angeles and Oakland on Monday that will be able to vaccinate 6,000 people per day in each location.
For information about the COVID-19 vaccine and countywide availability, please visit www.publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/ or call 2-1-1 and press “4” for assistance. The County Call Center is available 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dr. Do-Reynoso did acknowledge the long wait times and extended busy signal when calling 2-1-1 due to the high call volume. PHD currently has 11 people working the call center and they plan to add up to 12 more staff members.
Revised Health Officer Order
On Friday, PHD issued a new Health Officer Order, which included the following changes:
Gyms can offer one-on-one personal fitness training indoors for one person at a time. No more than a total of one personal fitness trainer and one client are permitted indoors at a time. When providing one-on-one personal fitness training indoors, gyms must follow California Department of Public Health guidance for “limited services.”)
Places of worship and providers of religious and cultural ceremonies may operate indoors with occupancy limited to 25% capacity (so long as guidance and additional modifications followed, as provided by California Department of Public Health guidance for places of worship)
Wedding ceremonies may occur indoors with occupancy limited to 25% capacity (so long as state guidance and additional modifications are made pursuant to California Department of Public Health guidance for places of worship).
On Friday PHD announced 87 new COVID-19 cases and one death. The individual was over the age of 70 with underlying medical conditions and resided in Santa Maria. The death was not associated with an outbreak at a congregate facility.
There are currently 741 active cases in the county. Of those, 139 are hospitalized including 28 in the ICU. Santa Barbara County now has 31.6% ICU availability.
Dr. Ansorg stated the case rates and testing positivity within the county going down has been a "great relief." He urged the community to stay vigilant with social distancing and mask-wearing to make sure the downward trend continues.