Lompoc Health First to Offer Public Vaccinations

Nurses Calling Patients over Age 75, Appointment Mandatory

Retired RN Alice Iwai receives her first dose of the Moderna vaccine from Lompoc Valley Medical Center Emergency Department Director Ryan Stevens. | Credit: Courtesy LVMC

One hundred patients were anticipated but 350 made appointments instantly with Lompoc Health when they were called by a nurse and offered a spot at Wednesday’s COVID vaccination clinic.

Lompoc Health, the clinic portion of Lompoc Valley Medical Center, is the first in Santa Barbara County to offer a vaccine against COVID-19 to the general public, albeit to the public who are their patients over the age of 75. 

“It went very smoothly. People were so eager to get the vaccine,” said Nora Wallace, spokesperson for the hospital. “One of our volunteers clapped and I saw another get teary-eyed, they were so relieved to get the vaccine.” The hospital had finished the first round of vaccines for its medical staff on Monday and still had the Moderna vaccine to spare; they decided to start vaccinating their elderly patients.

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Patients did not need to call their physician, Wallace said. Medical assistants are calling all the Lompoc Health patients age 75 and over to let them know the vaccine is available, and they began booking time slots as of yesterday. The line hopscotched down the hallway as people stood on squares spaced six feet apart to wait their turn. In the hospital cafeteria, five stations were set up, but at one point the nurses moved into the waiting area to dispense the vaccine, Wallace said, to keep the flow of people moving. The clinic would continue as long as the allocation was available, she said.

In the South County, health-care workers will be able to go to the new Cottage Health drive-through vaccine site in Goleta starting Friday, also by appointment only. Set up to to push progress in the current vaccination group — medical workers — and be able to move on to the public, the drive-up clinic is open on Friday and Saturday, January 15-16, in the parking lot across from its Goleta Valley hospital from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on both days.

The anti-COVID inoculations for the rest of us are estimated to begin in early February, but the first tier has recently dropped to 65 years of age and older. It’s likely Cottage’s drive-up location will continue to provide vaccinations once they become available to all.

To sign up for the new drive-through, health-care workers must first go to the Cottage COVID website to double-check their eligibility and sign up for an appointment. Eligible are those who have face-to-face contact with patients — not those working remotely — and live or work in Santa Barbara County in acute care, psychiatric and correctional facility hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, paramedics, EMTs, emergency medical services, dialysis centers, home health care and in-home supportive services, community health workers such as promotoras, primary care clinics, urgent care clinics, specialty clinics, laboratory workers, dental and other oral health clinics, and pharmacy staff. In other words, all the health-care workers in Phase 1A, Tiers 1, 2, and 3 who are listed at the county’s Public Health website.

At the drive-through, Cottage will require proof of health-care worker status, a valid ID card, and an insurance card. After vaccination, patients are asked to stay for 15 minutes to ensure no allergic reaction will develop.

Public Health’s website also carries scheduling links for the first phase of inoculations at Public Health facilities and through pharmacies. All vaccinations are by appointment only and will only be provided to those in Phase 1A.

Once Phase 1A is completed, the county will move to Phase 1B, which now starts at age 65 and older. It had previously been age 75 and older, but the state announced the change on January 13. More than 40 community health centers, pharmacies, and private providers have signed up to give vaccinations, though they are concentrating on health-care workers currently, said Jackie Ruiz, county Public Health spokesperson. The estimated date to begin Phase 1B in Santa Barbara County currently remains early February.

Even after receiving both doses of the vaccine, Cottage Health states COVID safety precautions are still critical. It takes several weeks for immunity to develop. Wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding crowds continue to be important post-vaccine. Further, whether people who’ve been vaccinated can transmit the virus to others is unknown; all precautions remain necessary.

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