The percentages of races and ethnicities of those who have received COVID-19 vaccine in Santa Barbara County is not representative of its demographics, according to data from the Public Health Department.
But Public Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso blamed the discrepancy on prioritizing health care workers and people age 75 and older, and she expects the percentages to become more reflective of the county population as additional groups begin receiving vaccines.
In a report to the County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 9, Do-Reynoso said the county has vaccinated 64.2% of those 75 and older in the county and is now looking at moving to the next groups in priority for the vaccine.
But she admitted that with the county only receiving about 6,000 doses per week for both first and second vaccinations, less than 1% of the county’s population is currently being vaccinated.
A new chart Do-Reynoso displayed for the board shows that of the approximately 45,750 doses administered, 31% were given to White people, 18% to Hispanic and Latino, 20% to people of multiple races, 2% to those of Asian descent, 1% to Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander ethnicities, and 0% to Black and African Americans as well as Native American and Native Alaskan people.
However, another 11% went to people listed as “other” on their racial and ethnic identities and 17% went to people for whom that information was missing.
According to U.S. census data, the county is 43.8% White, 46% Hispanic, 6% Asian, 2.4% Black, 2.1% Native American, 0.3% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 3.8% of two or more races.
“I anticipate that as we move forward … this pie chart will shift to reflect the diversity of our workforce,” Do-Reynoso said.
She also responded to criticism of the county for not vaccinating people in the 65-to-74 age group while other counties are by explaining that this county has more people older than 75.
The people who are prioritized for vaccination is determined by the number of doses received from the state, the number of people who are eligible but have declined the vaccine and the number of people in the priority groups.
She said an analysis of statewide distribution shows the county is getting its fair share of vaccine.
“The reality of the 6,000 [doses] is that it will not go very far,” Do-Reynoso said.
Asked if the Public Health Department has the ability to increase the number of vaccinations if the supply increases, Do-Reynoso said the department initially planned to vaccinate 15,000 people per week, and the county’s hospitals can vaccinate as many as the department.
“We believe we have the infrastructure [and are] only limited by the scarcity of vaccines,” she said.
Supervisors also had questions about other aspects of the pandemic response, including school reopenings, rental assistance and restaurants struggling with regulations for using tents to serve customers outdoors.
Kelly Hubbard, director of the Office of Emergency Management, said the use of open-flame space heaters inside the tents was a safety issue, and the County Fire Department is working with restaurants on guidelines for their use.
County Executive Office Mona Miyasato said cities also have responsibility for regulating tents at restaurants in their jurisdictions.
“I would encourage staff to try to find a way to [say] “yes” over the next few months to keep people outdoors where we want them,” 5th District Steve Lavagnino said. “Whenever you have a rule, there’s always some way to come down on that.”
As far as rental assistance, supervisors were concerned about the difficulty of tenants determining whether the state or local program would suit them better and applying for assistance.
Dinah Lockhart, deputy director of Housing & Community Development, told the board United Way will be acting as the doorway to rent assistance and can help direct tenants to the best program.
She said she expects the organization to have an application webpage up by next week.
George Chapjian, director of the Community Services Department, said Community Development Block Grant funds formerly going to that program will be directed to assisting businesses through the Santa Barbara Foundation, and about $750,000 is available for that purpose.