Santa Barbara and Westmont look toward coronavirus vaccine

Chloe White, Staff Writer

Last week, Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg announced that the county could have access to a coronavirus vaccine as soon as late December. Vaccines will be distributed with priority for those who face the highest exposure — especially health workers — and those who are most likely to have a severe case of COVID-19.

Pfizer, one of the companies developing a coronavirus vaccine, requested emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 20 to begin administering the vaccine to high-priority individuals and organizations. So far, the vaccine has a 95 percent efficacy rate. Additionally, Moderna, Inc. announced this morning that it would file for regulatory clearance for its vaccine, which has a 94 percent efficacy rate in clinical trials.

Given the criteria, Westmont will likely have to wait a significant amount of time before getting access to a vaccine. According to Jason Tavarez, Director of Institutional Resilience, the college will be looking at more like six to nine months before doses are available on campus.

Tavarez predicted a “pretty protracted timeline for getting it to the majority of our employees and students because the vast majority do not fall into the “at-risk” categories (age, chronic conditions, etc.).” He added that Westmont has begun looking into what vaccine distribution would look like, entering into conversations with companies like Rite Aid to ensure that the campus receives the best care possible.

However, Tavarez commented that, even though he has been in conversation with Santa Barbara County public health representatives, there is “really nothing definitive regarding when it might be available for us.”

Other organizations will begin receiving doses of the vaccine if they qualify for priority vaccination. Vandenberg Air Force Base, about an hour northwest of campus, is scheduled to have its first round of the vaccine developed by Pfizer available within a month, according to the Santa Maria Times. Vandenberg’s status as a critical military base ensured its access to the vaccine earlier than non-priority entities.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference that he anticipates up to 2.4 million doses of the vaccine to be available for California’s healthcare workers in December. This cannot commence until the FDA approves emergency use of the vaccine. He cautioned that civilians should not anticipate mass vaccination to begin until March.

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