Shirley Stockero, 92, receives her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Cottage Hospital in Goleta. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Santa Barbara County residents over the age of 16 will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday at one of three permanent public health community vaccination sites located throughout the county, including at the Hilton Santa Barbara near East Beach. This location may pose an issue for county residents who only own bicycles, including students in Isla Vista, but public transportation, mobile vaccination teams, and other accommodations have the potential to broaden vaccine access.

While the Hilton site on Cabrillo Boulevard may pose transportation obstacles for those living in the Goleta area, the initial location of the Santa Barbara point of distribution — closer to Goleta — presented more challenges, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health Department public information officer Jackeline Ruiz. “The Hilton site has been a really successful initiative,” said Ruiz. “There are a number of bus lines that run through there, so that’s definitely a consideration. Milpas is a pretty populated area of the community, and a lot of folks are going through the area.”

Mobile vaccination teams are another strategy Public Health is considering. “Instead of people going to vaccination sites, we’d be going into communities. In some cases, we’d go to employer locations depending on where the need is,” said Ruiz. She said some mobile clinics are scheduled in northern Santa Barbara County for as early as next week, and an additional mobile team will soon be based in Santa Barbara proper.

Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s drive-up community vaccine clinic has “a designated tent for ‘non-vehicle appointments,’ and the path does not cross the motor vehicle traffic route, allowing for safer access,” said Cottage Hospital marketing director Bob Behbehanian. “We do ask anyone with access to a vehicle to please use that method of transportation to the clinic, as we have more lanes for vehicle arrivals.”

The hospital site provides up to 2,000 vaccinations per clinic day, is accessible by city bus, and lies along the main Hollister Avenue routes. The Coast Route bicycle path also leads to the hospital via the South Patterson bike route. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent at the Cottage site.

As Cottage Hospital’s vaccine doses are allocated by the state instead of the county, which is standard for private clinics, appointments can be made only on California’s MyTurn website and won’t be posted at the Public Health website. As more vaccines become available, appointments for the Hilton, Lompoc, and Santa Maria sites will once again be offered on the Public Health website, According to Behbehanian, the most important thing is to sign up for a vaccine appointment at the first location available.

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