The first batches of COVID-19 vaccines were given mainly to health workers, but a large group of community members could start having access to them next week: people over 65.
Santa Barbara County is following California’s phased vaccine distribution system and is close to completing the first priority groups of healthcare workers, emergency medical service workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities such as qualified retirement homes.
“We plan to redouble our efforts on the ground this week so that we can complete phase 1a,” Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso told the Supervisory Board this week.
Residents over 75 are the next eligible group, but the state this week decided to extend it to all 65 and over.
It’s a much larger group, and it’s much earlier than the Department of Public Health anticipated, Do-Reynoso told Noozhawk on Wednesday.
“Age is going to take precedence over essential workers (for vaccine allocation) unless you’ve already checked them in and made appointments with them,” Do-Reynoso said.
“This is the one who shows up in our hospitals and unfortunately suffers from serious fatal consequences.”
So far, eligible people have been found in a top-down approach through their employers or the collective facilities where they live.
For future groups, the county will need to work with health care providers and community groups to let people know they are eligible and tell them how to make immunization appointments for both doses.
An employee at Lompoc Valley Medical Center holds a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo from Lompoc Valley Medical Center)
The county plans to offer online appointment recording, contact eligible people directly through healthcare providers, and use call centers.
“2-1-1 call centers will be able to record appointments, and that includes people who do not have access to online platforms or who cannot access them linguistically,” she said.
When access is opened to all adults, which is expected “sometime in the spring,” the county plans to create mass vaccination clinics and awareness campaigns to spread the word, she said. declared.
There will likely be drive-thru sites, walk-in sites, and appointment only sites throughout the county, as well as mobile vaccination clinics for people who cannot access major sites.
The public health department is already asking partners in the local health system for staff to provide these community sites with mass vaccination.
“To mass vaccinate our county, it cannot be just us; it has to be everyone, ”Do-Reynoso said.
Do-Reynoso emphasized that the vaccine distribution process is dynamic and that political decisions are made every day by state and federal governments.
The county has a vaccine information website at https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/.
Vaccine distribution levels and estimated schedule
The county requests and receives an order for vaccines every week, and on duty to vaccinate people through its clinics. It assigns most doses to a network of vaccine suppliers: hospitals, community clinics, doctor’s offices, and retail pharmacies.
State and County use a priority system of phases and levels because supplies are limited.
(Photo by Santa Barbara County Public Health Department)
It is based on the idea of giving the first vaccinations to people likely to be exposed to the virus at work (essential workers including those in the health field) and to people likely to fall seriously ill (the elderly and people with serious medical conditions).
The idea was to complete one level at a time and move on to the next.
However, this system created bottlenecks, as hospitals and clinics were left with extra doses and no one authorized to administer them.
California opened it this week and created a larger pool of eligible people, and the county expects faster vaccinations because of it.
“I think due to the rigorous prioritization system we were stuck for a while,” Do-Reynoso said.
California officials decided on Wednesday that instead of vaccinating residents 75 and over in the next group, they should be 65 and over – a much larger pool of eligible people.
The direction of use of each dose also leads to situations where some providers get ahead of others.
Lompoc Valley Medical Center said on Wednesday it would vaccinate some of its own patients aged 75 or older. The center has already vaccinated all of its staff and suppliers who come into contact with patients, and had additional doses it needed to use, Do-Reynoso said.
Do-Reynoso admitted that the public health department had not been informed that LVMC was going to announce the move, and said it would have been good to coordinate it better.
The county has received a lot of phone calls from older adults who say more is not fair to non-Lompoc residents, she said.
“What we’re saying is that right now what Lompoc is doing could be interpreted as making optimal use of their assigned vaccine,” she said. “We don’t want it languishing in a refrigerator or wasted.
“For those who are unfortunately not part of the health network, who are 75 years old, the public health service will extend to 75 years as early as perhaps next week.
Health workers with contact with patients are currently eligible for the vaccine and can sign up for appointments through the county’s website here.
“Right now, people who provide direct patient care or work in patient care areas are eligible,” not people working from home, according to the county.
(Photo by Santa Barbara County Public Health Department)
Cottage Health hosts a drive-through vaccination clinic at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital for eligible healthcare workers who live or work in Santa Barbara County on Friday and Saturday. The website has more information and a pre-registration form.
Under the current schedule, people 65 and over should be eligible starting next week.
In February and March, this will extend to people at risk of workplace exposure in areas such as:
»Food / grocery and agriculture
“Transport and logistics
»Industrial, commercial, residential and accommodation facilities and services
»Assemble shelters and detention centers
Then there are people over 60 and people with underlying health conditions or disabilities that increase their risk of severe COVID-19 if infected.
Also, those at risk of exposure at work in the following sectors:
»Water and wastewater
»Chemical and hazardous materials
»Communications and IT
»Government Operations / Community Core Functions
As Do-Reynoso said, the county plans to open mass vaccination clinics this spring.
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