Although access to COVID-19 vaccine is readily available and the Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval to Pfizer's version, the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals in Santa Barbara County is growing slowly, according to a report to the Board of Supervisors.
At the same time, the number of new cases among unvaccinated individuals is rising again after a short dip, while the number of new cases among vaccinated residents is continuing to decline, according to the report delivered Aug. 31.
Van Do-Reynoso, director of the County Public Health Department, said the number of new cases among unvaccinated residents as of Aug. 20 was 37.8 per 100,000 population, but for vaccinated residents the number was down to 7.5 per 100,000.
Combined, the numbers gave the county a new case rate of 21.9 per 100,000 residents.
“So as of Aug. 20th, cases were 5.04 more times likely to be unvaccinated than vaccinated,” Do-Reynoso said.
She said the percentage of eligible county residents who were fully vaccinated as of Aug. 29 stood at 64.9%, an increase of less than 1% from the 64% reported last Aug. 24.
“So what this means is that there are still about 134,7114 eligible Santa Barbara County residents that are not yet vaccinated,” Do-Reynoso said, although in response to a question, she said there is a three-week delay between first and second doses.
She said residents now have ample opportunities to receive the vaccine.
In the North County, vaccines are available at 16 providers, 17 pharmacies, one hospital and one Public Health Department site for a total of 35 locations, plus mobile vaccination clinics as needed.
In the middle portion of the county, the public can get vaccinated at three providers, seven pharmacies and one hospital for 11 locations, plus mobile clinics as needed, and vaccines are available at 14 providers, 23 pharmacies and two hospitals in the South County for a total of 39 locations, plus mobile clinics.
“In total, access is not an issue anymore,” Do-Reynoso said.
She added that the demand for first doses at the mobile clinics has increased, noting that four weeks ago, a total of 56 first doses were provided compared to 125 doses last week.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino asked if Public Health Department has seen any increase in demand since the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, now being marketed as Comirnaty.
Do-Reynoso said “anecdotally we’re seeing an increase” but noted the department has not finished analyzing the data to see if there was a spike following full approval. She said she expected to have that information this week.
Other county statistics as of Aug. 30 included that 99 new cases had been reported, bringing the number of active cases to 633 and total cases to 39,118. One new death — a Santa Maria resident about 60 years old — was also reported for a total of 476.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients were 72, with 22 of those in intensive care units, Do-Reynoso said.
Do-Reynoso also explained the difference between “third doses” and “booster doses” of the vaccines.
Third doses are for immunocompromised individuals for whom two doses did not provide a sufficient level in their immune systems.
They are currently able to receive a third dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines 28 days after their second dose from health-care providers and at pharmacies and hospitals.
Booster doses are being considered for everyone else whose immune systems reached sufficient levels after two doses because it appears immunity fades after a certain period of time, Do-Reynoso said.
Those individuals will be able to receive the booster eight months after their second dose, tentatively starting Sept. 20, from health-care providers, pharmacies, hospitals and Public Health Department community sites.
However, Do-Reynoso said the FDA is still evaluating both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for booster shots.