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Initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was administered to hundreds of Santa Barbara County health care workers on Dec. 17. 

Community members ages 75 and older in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties can get their COVID-19 vaccines beginning next week, public health officials from both counties announced Friday.

There are approximately 32,000 Santa Barbara County residents in this age range, but not every eligible individual will be able to secure an appointment immediately due to a low supply of vaccines, according to Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso. 

Medical providers approved to administer the vaccine will begin reaching out to eligible patients on Jan. 20. An additional 1,200 doses also are available at point-of-dispensing sites in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara, with appointment registration available at publichealthsbc.org/covid-19-vaccine-appointment-registration/

In San Luis Obispo County, 4,000 available vaccine appointments for next week filled up within hours, according to county public health spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman. More appointments will be announced in the near future. 

Although Gov. Gavin Newsom urged counties this week to expand vaccinations to individuals 65 and older, neither Santa Barbara nor San Luis Obispo counties have the needed supplies. Instead, the counties opted to begin vaccinating those 75 and older, who fall into the first tier of Phase 1B.

Approximately 30,000 additional Santa Barbara County residents fall between the ages of 65 and 74, according to 2018 California Department of Finance data.  

“We fully support the prioritization of those over the age of 65 and look forward to the receipt of additional vaccines to meet the current demand,” Do-Reynoso said.

The county has been allocated a total 38,075 doses by the state, some of which still need to be delivered, and has administered approximately 15,000 of these doses, according to Do-Reynoso.

Vaccinations are also continuing for individuals in Tier 1A, which includes staff in acute care, psychiatric, and correctional facility hospitals, staff and residents in long-term care settings, paramedics, lab and clinic workers, and dentists. 

Those in Phase 1A can receive vaccines through health care providers, by registering at county point-of-dispensing sites or at local Vons and Sav-on pharmacies.

Providers that have finished vaccinating Phase 1A in their individual network may advance early to those in the next phase. 

Since providers have flexibility to advance phases, rather than transfer vaccines to other providers still vaccinating in a lower phase, doses are prevented from spoiling, according to Do-Reynoso.

Lompoc Valley Medical Center already has administered approximately 1,000 vaccines to local residents 75 years and older this week after completing doses for Phase 1A in its network.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines or registering for an appointment in Santa Barbara County, call 211 and select option 4, or visit publichealthsbc.org/vaccine

Residents can also sign up for a newsletter with county vaccine updates at signup.e2ma.net/signup/1937902/1753150/

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For information about vaccines in San Luis Obispo County, visit recoverslo.org/en/covid-19-vaccines-in-slo-county.aspx

Daily COVID-19 cases

Even as vaccination efforts increase, Santa Barbara County's COVID-19 case surge remains dire.

According to health officials, the county currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the state, based on recent case growth and testing positivity. 

"We can anticipate that nearly one in 50 people are spreading the virus at any time," said Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg, adding that the current surge is expected to last through February. 

On Friday, the county reported 364 new COVID-19 cases along with five deaths from the virus. 

Active cases in the county now total 2,783, out of 23,538 total cases confirmed thus far, according to county public health data.

The five deaths reported Friday included two residents from Santa Maria, two from Lompoc and one from Orcutt. Four individuals were over the age of 70 and one was between the ages of 50 and 69. One death occurred in connection with a congregate living facility outbreak, according to county data.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the county is now 228.

As of Friday, 192 individuals are hospitalized for COVID-19, including 52 individuals in the intensive care unit.

In the city of Santa Maria, 831 out of 8,354 total cases remain active. Ninety-eight individuals have died.

In the community of Orcutt, 154 out of 1,288 total cases remain active. Fourteen individuals have died.

In the city of Lompoc, 277 out of 2,417 total cases remain active. Eighteen individuals have died.

In the Santa Ynez Valley area, 108 out of 651 total cases remain active. Twelve individuals have died.

In the unincorporated North County area, 69 out of 930 total cases remain active. Fourteen individuals have died.

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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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