The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced Friday that vaccine appointments will open to residents 65 to 74 years of age starting Feb. 16, after the state allocated just over 9,000 additional doses to the county.
Around 6,000 appointments will be available this week to the new age group, which contains around 40,000 people countywide, county Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said.
Due to the low number of vaccine supplies, county officials requested that higher-risk individuals in the age group be permitted to access the first round of appointments.
"We just want to encourage everyone to be patient; we have a lot more people than we have vaccines for. Please allow more vulnerable people to get their vaccines first," she said.
Appointments will be offered first by non-county providers including hospitals, clinics and pharmacies, officials said. Individuals in Phase 1A and residents over the age of 75 also will continue to receive first and second doses.
While officials originally planned to vaccinate those 65 and older simultaneously with other Phase 1B groups, including those working in education, child care, emergency services, agriculture and food services, the decision was made last week to wait on those groups.
Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said residents 65 and older were prioritized first for vaccine supply in Phase 1B because they are at the highest risk for severe cases and death from COVID-19.
"That's why with this incredibly stretched, short supply of vaccine product, we decided we are going to roll out vaccines for [other 1B sectors] a couple of weeks later … depending on the supply," Ansorg said.
As of Friday, the county has been allocated 70,100 total doses, enough to fully vaccinate around 8% of the county's population, according to county vaccine data. Around 9,000 doses have been ordered but not yet received.
Thus far, the county has administered 60,443 vaccines, or 99% of all received doses, according to Do-Reynoso. Of these, around 75% are first doses and 25% are second doses.
Additional vaccine demographic data broken down by age, geographic area, race and ethnicity, and gender is also available on the county's COVID-19 community dashboard at experience.arcgis.com.
As COVID-19 eligibility expands in Santa Barbara and nearby counties, officials reported extremely high volumes of calls to the county's call center and 211 line. To meet this demand, the county will work to double its call center staff, Do-Reynoso said.
"We are working to improve the system, which includes increasing staffing and creating a shorter wait time. We do hear and understand the frustration people are experiencing," she said.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines in Santa Barbara County, visit publichealthsbc.org/vaccine.
Daily COVID-19 cases
The Santa Barbara County Public Heath Department reported 87 new COVID-19 cases and one death from the illness on Friday.
In total, 30,586 cases have been confirmed in the county, with 741 cases still active and contagious, according to county public health data.
The death reported Friday was a Santa Maria resident over the age of 70, according to county data. Confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the county now total 367.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to slowly drop, with 139 individuals currently hospitalized, including 28 individuals in the intensive care unit.
In Santa Maria, 169 out of 10,379 total cases remain active and 142 individuals have died.
In Orcutt, 31 out of 1,600 total cases remain active and 19 individuals have died.
In Lompoc, 97 out of 3,209 total cases remain active and 40 individuals have died.
In the Santa Ynez Valley area of Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, 32 out of 893 total cases remain active and 15 individuals have died.
In the North County area of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, 32 out of 1,188 total cases remain active and 18 individuals have died.