Goleta Valley COVID-19 vaccination clinic
Hundreds of people receive COVID-19 vaccinations at the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital drive-up clinic on Jan. 21. Cottage Health is one of several local COVID-19 vaccine providers. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

There are limited COVID-19 vaccine doses available in Santa Barbara County and the rest of the country, which is why priority systems were established for who gets vaccinated first. 

Locally, and in most communities, health care workers and senior residents older than age 75 are the first people with access. 

Hospital workers and other providers keep the health care system going, and older residents have a much higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, according to public health officials. 

Not everyone in the eligible groups can get a vaccination appointment right away, and most young adults will likely have to wait months before vaccines are available to them. 

Neither of the vaccines approved for use in the United States (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) is available for children younger than age 16. 

Noozhawk has received dozens of questions about COVID-19 vaccines and appointments, and this Q&A will answer commonly asked ones about local availability. 

How Many Vaccine Doses Are Being Delivered to Santa Barbara County?

The county is ordering as many doses as possible and is receiving about 6,000 per week, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said.

There are additional doses available for skilled-nursing and assisted-living facility residents through a federal pharmacy-partnership program. 

graphic showing vaccination doses

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department graphic)

Do-Reynoso said Tuesday that the county is getting its “fair share” of doses through the state, based on population and eligible residents, but is expecting deliveries to increase as vaccine production increases.  

The county has reported ordering 61,000 doses to date, with most of them delivered. 

Vaccine information is available on the county data dashboard at sbcdashboard.org, updated weekly, and the California vaccine-related website

Noozhawk is including its COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker in almost all COVID-19-related stories, which updates the number of doses administered in the county, the state and the country so far. 

Here is the latest version: 

 PopulationCOVID-19 Vaccine Doses DeliveredVaccine Doses AdministeredSource
Santa Barbara County460,44461,00038,706Public Health Department
California39.5 million7.6 million 5 million California Department of Public Health
United States330.8 million65.9 million 44.7 million Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How Many People Have Been Vaccinated in Santa Barbara County So Far?

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has not reported an exact number, but it reported 39,700 first doses as of Feb. 2.

Several thousand more people have been vaccinated through the federal pharmacy program for skilled-nursing and assisted-living residents, and through Marian Regional Medical Center’s program through Dignity Health (which had about 13,000 doses so far). 

Do-Reynoso said Tuesday that about 64% of residents age 75-plus have been vaccinated, which would be about 20,800 people based on population estimates. 

Vaccinated residents so far have not been representative of the countywide population in terms of age, race or ethnicity. 

Do-Reynoso said she expects “the pie chart will shift to reflect the diversity in our workforce” as larger groups become eligible for vaccinations. 

Communities of color, and in particular Latino and Hispanic residents, have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in Santa Barbara County and the rest of California.

People of color are more likely to work in essential jobs and to have underlying health conditions, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

The county has not released geographical information about vaccinated residents, but vaccination opportunities so far have been focused in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta and Santa Barbara. 

The county recently restricted some of its vaccination appointments in Santa Maria and Lompoc to residents of those areas, to spread out availability more equitably.

Past appointment signups were dominated by South Coast residents, regardless of where the actual vaccination site was in the county, according to the Public Health Department. 

How Many County Residents Are Eligible for Vaccines Right Now? Who’s Next? 

Since there is not enough vaccine supply to meet demand right now, states and counties have prioritized vaccines for people at risk of severe illness and death (based on age and medical conditions), and at risk of workplace exposure to the novel coronavirus (based on occupation, including essential workers who cannot work from home).

The Public Health Department and other providers in Santa Barbara County are vaccinating patient-facing health care workers, emergency medical services workers (such as paramedics), and residents age 75 or older. 

Do-Reynoso said the county decided to vaccinate the 75-plus group first and soon will move to the 65- to 74-year-old group, which has many more people.

graphic showing number of residents in each priority group

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department graphic)

People who work in education and child care (including teachers), food and agriculture (including grocery store staff and farmworkers), and more emergency responders are also expected to be eligible in the next group. 

Ventura County expanded to age 65-plus residents on Tuesday, and San Luis Obispo County started booking appointments for age 65-plus people on Wednesday. 

 Estimated number of people
Total population Santa Barbara County 460,444
Eligible adults in current tier (healthcare workers, emergency medical, 75+)64,085 
Eligible adults in next group (65+, education, childcare, food, ag workers)96,634

Why Can’t I Get a Vaccination Appointment for a 75+ Person?

Hospitals, community clinics, pharmacies and Public Health Department sites are scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments, but there are limited supplies of the vaccine. 

If an appointment isn’t available the first time a person tries to sign up, there will be more appointments scheduled when more doses are delivered, according to the county. 

Sign up for the Santa Barbara County vaccine-related newsletter for appointment notifications here: https://signup.e2ma.net/signup/1937902/1753150/.

Get more information here: Where to Sign Up for COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments in Santa Barbara County

I Got My First Dose; Where and When Do I Get My Second Dose?  

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are two-dose vaccines, spaced a few weeks apart. 

Everyone should get a second-dose appointment at the same place they got their first dose, according to the Public Health Department.

Each vaccine provider (pharmacies, hospitals and clinics) gets deliveries of first doses and second doses. 

graphic showing vaccination second dose guidance

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department graphic)

Some providers are not scheduling those second-dose appointments right away, since they want to make sure doses are available, according to Suzanne Grimmesey of the county Department of Behavioral Wellness

The county says second doses can be administered up to six weeks after first doses, if necessary, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. 

Staff at the county call center can help people schedule second-dose appointments if they got the first dose at a Public Health Department vaccination site, Grimmesey said.

The call center, at 2-1-1 (option 4 after selecting language), is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

People can also call about COVID-19 and vaccine-related questions, and to get information on community resources such as food assistance. 

How Long Will I Have to Wait to Get Vaccinated?

It all depends on the eligibility group as well as vaccine supply and demand. 

Santa Barbara County has groups listed on its vaccine website here, but the priority order could change. 

graphic showing vaccination priority group order

The county is currently vaccinating health care workers, emergency medical workers and residents age 75 or older, and this graphic shows the plan for future groups. (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department graphic)

Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, said the county estimates that 60% of people in the next tier (age 65-plus, education, child care, food and agriculture workers) will accept the vaccine. That would mean the county needs about 116,000 doses (two each) to cover them.  

At the current rate of about 6,000 first doses weekly, it would take the county until June to vaccinate those people.     

“When there is a greater decline rate, that means there is more vaccine available for the next tier or the next eligible group,” Ansorg said. 

There is no specific goal percentage, but the more people who get vaccinated, the better, Do-Reynoso says. The better a community’s protection, the less the virus will be able to spread person to person. 

It is unknown what level of protection would be necessary to get community immunity, also known as herd immunity, from the novel coronavirus, or how the new variants would impact it. 

The two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States prevented illness in more than 90% of clinical trial participants, which means people did not get sick from the novel coronavirus. 

Scientists are still researching to determine whether vaccinated people can get infected with the virus, and possibly spread it, even if they do not get sick themselves. 

Use the New York Times interactive feature to find your theoretical place in the vaccine line based on age-based and occupation-based priority systems: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/03/opinion/covid-19-vaccine-timeline.html

For more vaccine-related information, check out the Public Health Department website here: https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/.

Read more stories from Noozhawk’s Coronavirus section by clicking here.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.