Public Health Officer pleased with vaccine success rate, expects county to have it by January
Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg is optimistic about the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and expects that Santa Barbara County will have them by early January.
In an interview with the News-Press, Dr. Ansorg said he and his colleagues at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department are “very excited” about the newly announced vaccines, as well as their reported efficacy rates.
According to Reuters, Pfizer’s vaccine was reported to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on initial data, and Moderna reported its vaccine was 94.5% effective.
Before Santa Barbara County, or anywhere else for that matter, can get the COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration needs to grant the vaccines emergency use authorization. Dr. Ansorg remarked that this hasn’t happened yet because the FDA needs to wait a certain number of days after administering a vaccine to people in order to observe if it has any side effects.
However, it is coming and if the rollout is expedited, Dr. Ansorg believes Santa Barbara County could have its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines before 2020 is over.
“If we are lucky then we might see the first vaccine in our hands by the end of the year. That would be an aggressive timeline, but no later than early January,” he said.
Once the county has obtained its first supply of the vaccine, that doesn’t mean COVID-19 restrictions on the county level will be relaxed.
“It’ll take time to vaccinate people,” Dr. Ansorg explained. “In the beginning, we’re expecting to get around 20,000 as a first batch.”
Santa Barbara County will follow state guidelines on how to give out the expected 20,000 vaccines. They will be given out by prioritizing those most at risk of catching COVID-19. Those working on the frontlines in the medical field will be the first to receive it and elderly residents, particularly those living in congregate care facilities, will be the next highest priority.
Though Dr. Ansorg said there are around 20,000 healthcare workers in Santa Barbara County, the same number as the amount of vaccines expected to arrive in January, he said the first batch will be given to both health care workers and elderly residents rather than the whole thing going to the former.
Dr. James Cherry, an infectious disease specialist at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, said that the existence of two vaccines will make it easier to get the whole population immunized. He expects administering the vaccines will be in “full swing” by next spring.
In an interview with the News-Press, he said, “To have enough doses, I think we’re talking about — certainly later in 2021 — I think there will be enough vaccine for everybody.”
He also said that COVID-19 antibodies should be observed to see how long a vaccine will be effective.
“They’ve looked at efficacy, but we should look at antibody prevalence over time, to see how rapidly they fall off which will tell you it is going to give lasting immunity,” Dr. Cherry said.
As the vaccine becomes more available to the point where the whole population can take it, it will be able to be given at vaccine pop-clinics and by people’s regular health care providers. Pharmacies will also be authorized to distribute the vaccine.
Getting both vaccines will involve getting two shots three to four weeks apart.