Health Officials Answer Questions from Our Readers

By Nick Schou   |   March 3, 2021

The Montecito Journal on February 19 hosted a COVID-19 Town Hall meeting on Zoom, during which Editor-in-Chief Gwyn Lurie read questions from the audience. These questions were answered by U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal, First District Supervisor Das Williams, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso, and others.

Because the meeting was limited to an hour, not all of our readers’ pre-submitted questions could be answered. What follows is an edited list of their questions and the written responses from local health and other elected officials.

Q. Why has Sansum, which has a vaccine clinic, been excluded by the County from vaccine distribution?

A. Sansum has not been excluded from vaccine distribution and is an active vaccine administrator within the community.

Can you please address why sanitary workers (such as those at MarBorg) are not priority as essential workers? They’re handling trash, homeless porta-potties, etc. They need vaccinations!

Sanitation workers will be vaccinated according to age.

Why is Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria getting so many more doses than Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital? I know many local residents drive to Santa Maria, Ventura, or even Los Angeles to get vaccinated. Why can’t Santa Barbara keep up?

Marian hospital falls under Dignity Health which is a multi-county entity. Cottage Hospital does not have the same categorization and therefore doesn’t have the same process for allocation of vaccines from the State.

For people getting vaccinated in Santa Maria: Can they get their second shot in Santa Barbara?

Second vaccinations are provided at the location where a person received their first vaccination.

Government workers are considered first responders during disasters, which can happen anytime. Will they be able to get vaccinated sooner rather than in the summer as we’ve been told?

The area of work in which a government worker falls will determine which tier of vaccination distribution they’re in.

At Governor Gavin Newsom‘s press conference today, he announced that beginning March 1 each county will set aside 10% of their vaccine doses for school staff. Can you please share any other information you have about how this will work in our county?

School teachers fall under the next tier of vaccinations, which is expected to begin very soon. At this point, all teachers will be able to sign up for vaccination appointments according to how much overall supply is available.

Can one get her second shot at Dodger Stadium if she got her first at the Wake Center?

Santa Barbara County follows the directive that people get their vaccinations within their county of residency or work. Second vaccine shots are provided at the same location as their first.

Why did it take Santa Barbara County so long to close the beaches over several holidays? Summerland Beach, Miramar Beach, and others were crowded with people and garbage. Beaches in Los Angeles and other counties were closed as were those in Carpinteria. But not here and we created a breeding ground for the virus. What have we learned from this and how will we handle this in the future?

The decision to close all beaches in Santa Barbara County followed much discussion and a lot has been learned. The pandemic is a first for all of us. Our learning will allow us to shape decision-making in the future.

Can you clarify how many vaccine doses come into the federal government to our state and county? There seems to be a lot of federally-supplied vaccines going to Santa Maria. Why are so few doses coming into southern part of the county? Do you count the federal vaccines in our dashboard? If not, we should so that we know what herd immunity looks like here.

Allocation of vaccines are administered separately to multi-county entities. Marian Hospital is owned by Dignity Health, which is a multi-county entity. Cottage Hospital is not. As such, the allocation of vaccine amounts is different.

Why was it impossible to get my 94-year-old mother vaccinated until recently?

Unfortunately, vaccine supply is very impacted. Last week, the county received an additional (and unexpected) allocation of 1,078 vaccine doses, although the shipment was held up due to extreme weather. Yet, we expect to receive them this week and that should increase the availability of appointments.

National news reports that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective 21 days after the first shot. What does Dr. Ansorg know about this?

Yes, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines seem to be protective after three to four weeks. The level of protection increases again three weeks after the second dose.

Minorities are dying at a higher rate from COVID, with Black and Latinx communities hit especially hard. Will we be prioritized like the older adults are?

The County is following state guidance on vaccine prioritization. According to the state’s vaccine distribution plan, an age-based framework is coupled with a vaccine distribution and engagement approach. That plan prioritizes disproportionately impacted populations to ensure that those eligible for vaccines in these communities are more likely to receive it. The number of disproportionately impacted communities in a county is a part of the formula that the state uses to determine vaccine allocation.

Press reports are that the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective and can be stored in normal freezers. Will we follow the United Kingdom’s lead and start delaying second Pfizer doses to get more first shots into people’s arms?

No. There is expert controversy about this approach. The Center for Disease Control and California Department of Public Health are recommending that we complete the two-dose vaccination within a six-week window. The county is following that advice.

Santa Barbara’s infection rate is worse than most other California counties. Why is that? Van said she attributed it to holiday parties but there were parties up and down the state.

This is actually incorrect. We had a very short period in early January when our local R-effective (the rate that measures how fast the virus spread) was higher than the rest of the county. However, this was very brief and due to our time lag in the winter surge and the subsequent downward trend.

We are moving to Santa Barbara in three weeks. We are both eligible (age 73 and 79) for our first shot in Oregon next week. But we’re concerned that it may be difficult to get a second shot in Santa Barbara if we didn’t get our first shot there.

As you are now residents of Santa Barbara County, you will be able to receive your second dose within the county.

Do you recommend that we wait and get both shots in Santa Barbara after we get our California drivers licenses?

We recommend you get the first dose as soon as it’s offered to you, wherever you are. There are many documents that can be used to verify your residency. For example, you can use utility bills, rental agreements, house deeds, and other options.

Are cannabis workers in medical dispensaries who are considered in the 1A-tier, the same as health care workers, already receiving vaccines in Santa Barbara?

Anyone in Phase 1A is eligible to receive the vaccine at present, including cannabis workers who work in medical dispensaries.

The governor just announced that 10% of vaccines must go to school staff. My hope is that these will go to educators who are interfacing with students AND who have comorbidities. The school districts know who those workers are.

Educators and childcare workers are eligible for the vaccine now. We will be working in collaboration with the local school districts on how to sub-prioritize the recipients.

Anyone know anything about UCSB and other college educators?

UCSB educators are eligible to receive their vaccine through the UCSB clinic system. They get vaccine allocation through the UC system.

When will postal and grocery workers be eligible for the vaccine?

Grocery workers will be eligible to schedule appointments on March 1. Postal workers are not listed on the tier system by the state and therefore will be eligible according to their ages.


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