To help quell confusion around Santa Barbara County’s vaccine rollout, the county hosted a virtual town hall for local elected officials and public health experts to answer community questions.
The hour-long event featured State Senator Monique Limón, 3rd District County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso, and Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg. Congressman Salud Carbajal had an emergency call to head back to Washington, D.C., so Erica Reyes from his office represented him. The event was moderated by Raiza Giorgi and Mike Hodgson from the Santa Ynez Valley Star.
“This is a chance, most of all, to get your questions answered from the experts, specifically about vaccines,” Hartmann said about the Santa Ynez COVID town hall on Tuesday. “We cast a wide net and got lots of questions back.”
The Independent selected key questions from the town hall and summarized the panelists’ answers below.
Why is Santa Barbara County behind all of the other counties in administering vaccines? Although a common misconception, the county is not lagging behind the rest of the state in administering vaccines. In fact, out of 58 counties, Santa Barbara places 34th in allocation. Ansorg explained that its usually the larger counties that are ahead of Santa Barbara that have multi-entity institutions. He also said they may not have as many agricultural workers, who are harder to reach, as Santa Barbara does.
Why are counties like San Luis Obispo able to vaccinate people in their fifties? When a county has exhausted the number of people interested in getting a vaccine and they still have vaccine supply, then they can attest that and have that policy change. Santa Barbara County, Do-Reynoso said, is not in the same situation. There are still people in their eighties that want a vaccine and haven’t gotten one in Santa Barbara.
With the variants of the virus and because we do not know the long-term efficacy of the vaccine, is it a public health priority to get us to zero COVID cases? The U.K. variant and the California variant have become dominant in California, Ansorg said. There may be as much as 70 percent of the county’s and state’s cases that are the California variant. The good news, Ansorg said, is that all three vaccines available are able to protect against both types of variants.
Where can I get vaccinated in Santa Ynez and in the county? The county will be setting up a mobile clinic on Friday at Golden Inn and Village in Santa Ynez. In addition, Public Health will be visiting homebound seniors in the area and offering them vaccines. Starting Sunday through Saturday, Public Health will set up a vaccination clinic in Lompoc. It will then move on to Santa Maria for seven days and finally Santa Barbara. She also recommended the CVS in Buellton for residents in the Santa Ynez Valley.
When will all adults, regardless of occupation or age or comorbidities, be able to get the vaccine? Do-Reynoso anticipated that by the first week of May, anyone who wants one will be able to get a vaccine.
When My Turn is launched, how will people without computers make appointments? Do-Reynoso said that community members can always call 2-1-1 at the county for help making their appointment. Alternatively, if one doesn’t have a computer, email, or cell phone, they can call the state call center at (833) 422-4255.
Will the COVID vaccine become annual like the flu? Though it is still too early to know, Ansorg predicts that the vaccine will not require an annual dose. He explained that the original trial participants for the COVID vaccine are now more than a year out from their shot and are still doing “really well.” Their antibodies and immune response are still as they should be, and another dose doesn’t appear to be needed.