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A health care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at Marian Regional Medical Center on Dec. 17.

Around half of Santa Barbara County health care workers eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have declined receiving any doses, county public health officials reported Friday.

Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said the estimate is a rough number, with around 28,000 health care workers in the county, and that the percentage of workers accepting the vaccine varies between health care centers.

"There’s a broad spectrum. It also depends on the age of the health care workers," he said.

At many skilled nursing facilities, which were able to vaccinate their staff and residents through pharmacy partnerships in January, only 30% of workers accepted the vaccine. However, 80% of eligible Cottage Health staff did choose to be inoculated, he said. 

Officials believe that vaccine misinformation on social media has played a large part in dissuading the general population from getting the vaccine, with widely circulated online rumors that it causes infertility and other conditions.

"There are, unfortunately, quite a few hoaxes or disinformation on social media," Ansorg said. 

Additionally, officials noted a greater level of vaccine hesitancy among the Latinx community, propelled by a more widespread mistrust of the U.S. health care system than other groups. 

Among individuals age 75 and older, the vaccine has been more widely accepted, with around 75% of the age group agreeing to receive it so far, he said. 

The county was allocated 9,000 additional doses this week, for a total of 61,000 allocated vaccines, according to county vaccine data. On Friday, the state reported that around 45,500 doses have been administered in Santa Barbara County.

Of the 9,000 newly allocated doses, 3,000 are designated as second doses for those who already received their first shot, Ansorg said. 

The new allocation is good news for providers like Lompoc Valley Medical Center, which now has enough supplies to administer second doses to everyone who received their first shot at the hospital, CEO Steve Popkin said.

Around 800 individuals over the age of 75 remain on the hospital's vaccination waitlist, with the possibility of a small number of first doses becoming available in the near future. However, the future remains uncertain with a lack of details about the state's new vaccine plan.

"At this point, we do not even know for sure whether or not [Lompoc Valley Medical Center] will be a vaccination provider going forward," Popkin said. 

While vaccines are expected to be opened soon to individuals in the next vaccination phase, which includes those 65 and older, education and child care workers, food and agricultural workers, and emergency service personnel, officials said there is no exact date at this point.

"We're thinking that even if there's only 60% acceptance of vaccine [in this group], we would still need about 100,000 doses," Ansorg said. "There's a lot of people in this particular group." 

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Daily COVID-19 cases

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 136 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths from the illness on Friday. 

In total, 29,564 total cases have been confirmed in the county, with 1,067 cases still active and contagious, according to county public health data

The four additional deaths include three individuals over the age of 70 and one between the ages of 50 and 69, with two deaths linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at a congregate living facility. Two of the individuals resided in Santa Barbara, one in Santa Maria and one in the area of Goleta Valley and Gaviota, according to county data.

COVID-19 deaths confirmed in the county now total 334. 

COVID-19 hospitalizations have remained steady over the past week, with 44 individuals in the intensive care unit out of 161 total hospitalized individuals.

In Santa Maria, 293 out of 10,121 total cases remain active and 132 individuals have died.

In Orcutt, 48 out of 1,547 total cases remain active. Nineteen individuals have died.

In Lompoc, 138 out of 3,097 total cases remain active. Twenty-eight individuals have died.

In the Santa Ynez Valley area of Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, 29 out of 855 total cases remain active. Fourteen individuals have died.

In the North County area of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, 27 out of 1,129 total cases remain active. Seventeen individuals have died.

In neighboring San Luis Obispo County, public health officials reported 114 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Confirmed cases now total 18,467, with 1,014 cases still active and contagious, according to county public health data

Coronavirus: Impact, response to COVID-19 on the Central Coast

We are working hard to get answers about the impact and reaction to the coronavirus in Santa Barbara County, this is a collection of those stories.

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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