By Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP,Health OfficerCounty of Santa Barbara, Department of Public Health

Immunization with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical part of the strategy to reduce COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths and will help restore societal functioning in our communities.

Who Will Get the First Vaccines?

Because the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is limited, CDC is recommending that initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine be offered to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff.

While there is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, the supply will increase substantially in the weeks and months to come.

The California Department of Public Health has created a priority list determining who will be able to get immunized during the next phases which will start by mid-January. The next group of people in line to be eligible will be people in critical infrastructure (teachers, firefighters, food workers, transportation), as well as persons 75 and older, and some younger people with certain chronic health conditions.

The exact list of phases of roll out of the vaccine is posted on Santa Barbara Public Health website: https://publichealthsbc.org/

Participating entities and providers who will be dispensing the vaccine include: Public Health POD’s (Immunization Points) in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara, as well as Urgent care clinics, Outpatient clinics (Sansum, Dignity, County Clinics, Neighborhood clinics, Central Coast Health Care Centers, as well as some private clinics) and Pharmacies.

Are the Vaccines Effective?

On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, to be distributed in the U.S. to individuals 16 years and older. The vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease in clinical trials.

A second vaccine created by Moderna  was approved on December 19 and showed to be 94% effective in their clinical trials.

Both vaccines require two doses to be fully effective.

Pfizer’-BioNtech’s second shot is given three weeks later; Moderna’s second shot is given 4 weeks after the first.

We have evidence that the vaccines are starting to protect from COVID-19 about 7 days after receiving the second dose.

Will There by Side Effects from the Vaccine?

Similar to other immunizations, some people may experience mild effects from the vaccine that usually last for 1-2 days. These include: soreness at injection site, headaches, fevers/chills or fatigue. In some cases, these vaccination effects may influence your ability to perform your daily activities for 1-2 days after injection. 

It is important to note that one cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine, nor will it cause you to test positive for the virus.

Will I have to wear a mask and keep social distance once I am vaccinated?

Until the CDC determines, that immunized persons cannot carry the virus in their respiratory tract, even though the virus does not make them sick, we will have to continue with social distancing and mask wearing. We anticipate having a definitive answer to this question by April.

Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP is  a graduate of Justus-Liebig-University Medical School Giessen, Germany. He completed Residency training in Munich, Germany and Tucson, AZ and is board certified in Family Practice (Germany) and Internal Medicine (USA). Dr. Ansorg is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and is on the Medical Staff at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. He has many years of experience in different clinical settings including 10 years of Private Practice and Urgent Care in Munich, Germany, as well as 11 years of Internal Medicine/Geriatrics in Arizona, as well as 4 years at the Santa Barbara County Health Care Center. Dr. Ansorg has served as Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County since April 2019.