State official says allocations are equal to all counties
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department vaccination sites did not have sufficient doses to vaccinate all people previously scheduled for Wednesday’s clinic in Santa Maria, resulting in the rescheduling of approximately 800 individuals.
The delay was caused by severe weather conditions across the country, but a small allotment of 400 Moderna vaccine doses was still used to vaccinate 400 community members on Wednesday.
According to the county’s public health officer, Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county was supposed to receive 3,800 Moderna doses Tuesday.
“Some of the Pfizer doses were shipped; however, we do not know how many, because they get shipped to the hospitals directly,” Dr. Ansorg said in a statement to the News-Press Wednesday. “As of today, we do not have any news on when the vaccine will arrive. We had to cancel the county PODs (points of distribution) in Santa Maria (Wednesday), Lompoc for (today) and Santa Barbara on Friday.”
All individuals with canceled appointments were notified and given the opportunity to reschedule the following week, and vaccination providers throughout the county were also notified of the delay.
“The Public Health Department understands the critical nature of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and will be working diligently to ensure all community members are rescheduled in a timely manner,” said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county public health director. “These unforeseen circumstances will not deter Santa Barbara County in continuing to pursue its goal of vaccinating all community members who desire a vaccine.”
This delay slows down what leading county health officials have referred to as an already slow-moving rollout process, despite the county having the adequate infrastructure for larger allocations of the vaccine. There has been discussion that Santa Barbara County has not received its fair share of vaccine doses compared to larger counties.
However, Darrel Ng, a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health, told the News-Press that it is indeed fair. He said there could be many reasons why Santa Barbara County’s rollout is slower than others such as Los Angeles and Orange counties.
“I don’t know that I would agree with the premise that they got more first,” Mr. Ng said. “It just depends on the appetite of local health officials to move through the tiers.”
He said that the state’s allocations to its 58 counties and three cities with local health departments, such as Berkeley, Long Beach and Pasadena, is based on the proportion of people eligible to receive the vaccine. At the very beginning, it was based on how many health care workers were in each jurisdiction, and then it moved to the 65-and-older group.
“Most people jumped straight to 65+. Most people didn’t do 75+,” Mr. Ng said. “It could’ve been that other counties look like they’re moving faster because it’s just 65+.”
The state official added that there’s the possibility of Santa Barbara County’s rural areas causing a slower allocation.
“In the general case, you see a lot of stories of there being health care worker shortages in rural areas. That may be why even in the earlier health care phase, it (Santa Barbara County) got less because there are fewer health care workers per capita,” he said.
Looking ahead, Mr. Ng said the allocation methodology is going to change in the coming weeks to reflect population, but the state receives no guidance from the federal government past three weeks ahead.
“California gets a three-week snapshot of what the pie will look like, and California is getting about 1.1 million doses this week, and we expect supply to be about stable or perhaps ticking up very slightly over the next three weeks,” he said.
Mr. Ng concluded that Santa Barbara County is not alone in its frustration.
“Allocations are based on eligible populations, and the state is working with the federal government to increase the number of vaccines coming into the state so more can be sent to counties,” he said. “Every county, every state, every country wishes they had more vaccines.”
Dr. Ansorg was asked to respond to these comments by the News-Press, but he did not address them in his written statement.