Nearly 2,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available at County Public Health vaccination clinics for people who work in grocery stores, emergency workers, and frontline health-care workers who were in the first tier. The appointments will open at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 1 through an online system, which can be accessed here — or at https://publichealthsbc.org/covid-19-vaccine-appointment-registration/. Eligible residents without computer access can call the 2-1-1 system, and select option 4, starting March 1 at 9 a.m., for assistance making an appointment.
Vaccine doses for teachers, childcare workers, and the agriculture and food industry are being given at special outreach clinics next week as well. Given the limited supply of vaccine, the focus this week for teachers will be those in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms who are currently working directly with students, said Public Health spokesperson Jackie Ruiz. Their school or district will contact them, Ruiz said.
More appointments will be available next week for people over the age of 65 through pharmacies, health-care providers, and hospitals, according to Santa Barbara’s Public Health officials. Those vaccination sites are also listed at the Public Health website above.
The quantity of vaccine available remains woefully short for the numbers of people who remain unvaccinated and those in the new tiers. About 100,000 people in the county are either over the age of 65, educators, food workers, or emergency personnel. Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso has said her agency and their partners are ready to vaccinate tens of thousands per week; they just need more meds to come from the state and federal government than the 6,000-8,000 currently received per week.
As of February 22, the county and its partners in the vaccination drive had administered 83,790 of the 88,970 doses received, according to the Public Health dashboard. (There is some lag time in the information.) Of those, 55,805 were first doses, and 27,295 were second doses. These represent medicines given to the county by the state, which ultimately come from the federal government. The feds are also supplying vaccine to certain pharmacies, such as in the effort to vaccinate skilled nursing facilities. Though the federal numbers are not given to the county, Public Health does receive totals on the number of county residents vaccinated. Nearly 6 percent of the county got the shot as of the past Monday.
It’s become a badge of pride for many car owners to keep the information scribbled on their window by medical personnel at the well-organized vaccination line at Cottage hospital in Goleta; the notation lets physicians know how long the person has been monitored for any vaccine side effects. Though the websites for the county’s hospitals currently show no appointments available, to be informed of when vaccines might be allocated to them in the coming week, eligible residents can sign up at the websites for Cottage, Marian, and Lompoc hospitals.
Another means to receive an update for vaccine eligibility is the state’s MyTurn registry. This system, which is in the process of being completely organized, will be used by Blue Shield, which becomes California’s vaccine czar in March. Blue Shield CEO Paul Markovich told reporters on Friday that the goal was to speed vaccine delivery by centralizing the appointment “entry points” as well as the ordering and allocation process. How well doses were placed in arms was an equity issue for the state, he said, and that keeping accurate data was a way to ensure a good amount of vaccine would come from the federal government.
Markovich said his company would be paid up to $15 million to implement the program, and he assured that the data would remain with the state. It would not become part of Blue Shield’s insurance program database.
His company would make recommendations to the state on vaccine allocations, Markovich said, and the state would decide the final amounts, which would be shipped directly to providers. So far, they’d negotiated with about 30 providers in the state, including hospitals, such as Kaiser, federally qualified health centers, and a pharmacy chain, he said. According to Markovich, Blue Shield would work with public health departments over the month of March to learn about their provider networks, and that changes might or might not result. Santa Barbara County is in the third and last tier of counties to receive the insurance giant’s attention, according to the state website.
Case numbers in the county continue to seesaw up and down daily, but at a level dropping just below the height of the summer surge in July. On Friday, the county recorded two more deaths, bringing the total to 409. The deaths occurred in Santa Barbara and in the Lompoc area, and were two individuals over the age of 70 living in a care home. The hospitals reported 76 COVID patients, 18 of whom were in an intensive care unit. There were 104 new cases countywide, and 31,867 total since the pandemic began. The majority — 12,523 — did not know how they became ill, and a total of 17,524 were infected either through close contact or general community contact.
[Update: February 28, 2021] A window on the effort to vaccinate the new tier came from Lompoc Valley Medical Center CEO Steve Popkin: Of the 3,510 Pfizer doses Lompoc was to receive this week, 1,000 were slated for educators and childcare workers, who were being organized by the school districts. Another 1,000 were for people 65 and older for first doses; eligible people on the waiting list will be called, as well as Lompoc Health patients, he said. Currently, the remaining doses would go to the over 65 cohort the following week, again starting with the waiting list. To get on Lompoc’s waiting list, Popkin suggested emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (805) 875-8909. The hospital was not allowed to retain any of this vaccine allocation for second doses, Popkin said, and he “fully expected” an allocation in three weeks for second doses.
About 18 percent of the adult population in the county who wanted a vaccine has received a first dose, Popkin asserted. He reasoned that 30 percent were declining the vaccine and subtracted the population under the age of 18 to arrive at the figure. He also noted that more residents of South County were fully vaccinated, 6 percent; the Central County, which included Lompoc, was at 5.2 percent; and North County at 4.4 percent.
As for the Blue Shield rollout sometime in March, he said he’d been advised by Public Health that it was “very likely” his hospital will be a state vaccine provider.
[Update: March 1, 2021] The story text was updated regarding the federal vaccination count and teacher vaccinations.