Health department continuing vaccination rollout, with inclusion of Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Santa Barbara County is continuing to see a decline in its COVID-19 metrics, as it moves closer to additional reopenings and loosening of health restrictions.
From Feb. 21 to 27, the county’s testing positivity rate decreased by 22%, its case rate decreased by 34% and active cases decreased by 23%, Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, public health director, said during Friday’s press conference.
“This is really good news, and if the trends continue we will be able to continue to reopen in the near future,” she said.
The county’s adjusted case rate remains at 11.3 cases per 100,000 people, a number that needs to be below seven cases per 100,000 in order for the county to move into the red tier.
Health officials also discussed the county’s vaccination rollout, which will continue next week and feature the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The county has administered about 81% of the vaccine doses received, which includes more than 53,000 first doses and 32,000 second doses. Vaccination efforts continue for those in the county’s Phase 1A group, which includes all health care workers and residents over 65, though the county’s primary focus has shifted to those in Phase 1B, including food and agriculture workers, emergency services workers and childcare and education.
First dose vaccine appointments are available every Monday starting at 9 a.m. for eligible vectors. The county expects to receive some 3,800 doses of the J&J, single dose vaccine by Tuesday, which will be distributed at vaccination clinics in the near future.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, health officer for the county, provided information on the J&J trial data, which showed that 85% of recipients achieved protection from severe COVID-19 28 days after they received their single shot and 100% protection against death.
As the shot is distributed, more statistics will be made available to determine the “real-world effectiveness” of the new vaccine, he said.
“After an in-depth evaluation of the Johnson & Johnson trial data, it is very clear that this new vaccine has several advantages over the Pfizer and Moderna products, while performing comparably,” Dr. Ansorg said.
He went on to explain that the J&J vaccine comes in a single dose, it is highly efficacious after 28 days and has resulted in less frequent or minor reactions. The new vaccine is easier to transport, can be used at facilities without the proper freezer capacity and works against COVID-19 variants, he added.
“I am predicting that this vaccine will become a preferred option to many people very quickly for all of those reasons,” he said. “Having said that, the best vaccine always will be the one that is available at any given time. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as it becomes available to them, regardless of which product you can get.”
Dr. Ansorg also explained the spectator restrictions that remain in place as youth and high school sports resume. Current state guidelines are only allowing immediate family members to attend games and practices, though Dr. Ansorg said that health officials “want as few people around the field as possible,” in the short-term.
“We want as few people around the field as possible to avoid crowds to make it possible for everybody on the sidelines to social distance,” he said. “Spectators are simply not welcome at this point. That … sounds cruel, but that’s just the fact of the matter. We are allowing very high-contact sports, which has a very high risk for spread of the virus, and therefore we have to be very, very diligent in protecting our athletes and make sure that they are safe to continue their season.
“Please, please understand we only can allow immediate household members on the sidelines at this point for practice and competition.”
The guidance on fans may change quickly, but “at this stage we cannot throw the baby out with the bath water” as the virus continues to spread in the community, he said.
A total of 49 new cases were reported on Friday, as well as one additional COVID-related death. The decedent was over 70 and had underlying medical conditions, and the death was associated with an outbreak at a congregate care site. The individual resided in the city of Lompoc.
In total, the county has reported 422 deaths. Of the 32,367 confirmed cases, some 322 remain active.
The city of Santa Barbara reported 15 new cases on Friday, with 91 remaining active. Eleven new cases were reported in the city of Santa Maria. No more than six cases were reported in other geographic regions, officials said.
A total of 53 people are recovering in the hospital, including 17 in the Intensive Care Unit. The county’s ICU availability was 28.9% as of Friday.
Those who are eligible and would like to register for a vaccine appointment can do so at 9 a.m. Monday by visiting www.publichealthsbc.org. Eligible persons can also call 211 and select option 4 to register.
Separate clinics will continue to take place for educators in coordination with the Santa Barbara Education Office, private school administration, and higher education leaders. Appointments for educators are being distributed by the district, charter, private school, and higher education administration. Appointments for child care workers are coordinated through the Children’s Resource and Referral Agency for Santa Barbara County.
Additionally, CVS Pharmacy and Rite-Aid Pharmacy, through vaccine allocated directly by the federal government, are also offering vaccine appointments to all eligible sectors including emergency services, agriculture and food industry, educators and child care, health care workers and those ages 65 and older. Other local pharmacies and hospitals continue to offer appointments to health care workers and those ages 65 and older.
Cottage Health issued an update on Friday, announcing that it is caring for a total of 263 patients across all campuses. Of those, 165 are acute care patients, 14 of whom are on ventilators. Some 15 patients are in isolation with COVID-19 symptoms and 14 are confirmed COVID-19 positive. The adult critical care available capacity was 24.4% as of Friday.
Lompoc Valley Medical Center administered some 450 Pfizer vaccines on Thursday for county educators, with an additional 450 doses administered Friday and 450 more expected to be administered today.
Those receiving vaccines were provided invitations from their district, charter or private schools. The educators were those working in higher-risk settings or with vulnerable populations, officials said.
In total, LVMC has administered more than 5,300 vaccinations to those eligible.
Vaccine appointments are available for residents 65 or older. To schedule an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805-875-8909 and leave your name, phone number and date of birth. You will then be called to schedule an appointment.