With COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna on the way and awaiting emergency use authorization by the FDA, leaders from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department on Tuesday informed the Board of Supervisors what vaccine distribution will look like.
All board members at the special meeting voted to accept the report on the vaccine rollout. Board Vice Chair and 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam wasn’t present at the meeting due to a prior commitment.
According to Public Health director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed in two initial phases. During phase 1A, healthcare workers and first responders will be given vaccines. This will be followed by phase 1B, in which the vaccine will be given to individuals who are at the greatest risk of getting ill from COVID-19 as well as older adults living in congregate care facilities or in other crowded settings.
Dr. Do-Reynoso added that Santa Barbara County has an estimated 20,000 healthcare workers and just under 2,000 first responders, both of which are expected to be adequately covered by the state’s first vaccine distribution to Santa Barbara County.
“The numbers really reflect the state’s estimation of about 25,000 vaccines needed for our county for the first phase,” she said.
Phase 1A is expected to begin in mid-to-late December, while 1B is expected to begin around the same time or sometime in January.
Once the first phase of vaccine distribution has been rolled out, the second phase is anticipated to begin around mid-March or mid-April. During phase 2, vaccines will be given to non-healthcare essential workers, people in congregate settings, and all other older adults not covered in the first phase.
The Public Health director reported that Santa Barbara County is in the middle of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, with a 10% increase in cumulative cases in the two weeks between Nov. 16 and Nov. 30. This period also saw a 61% increase in active COVID-19 cases, rising from 255 to 410.
Dr. Do-Reynoso added that there was a 154% increase in hospitalizations between Nov. 15 to Nov. 30, going from 13 to 33. She stressed that increases in hospitalizations tend to have a two to three-week delay following a spike in cases, and that while hospital beds may still be available, an increase in cases still puts stress on the medical workers.
“The increase in hospitalization can occur quite rapidly, and while bed capacity may be available, there may not be sufficient staffing available to support the increase in cases,” she said.
There were also three deaths during the two weeks between Nov. 16 and Nov. 30 period, going from 133 deaths to 136.
Like most California counties, Santa Barbara County is in the purple tier, with an adjusted case rate of 10.0, and a red tier-level positivity rate of 4.4.