Santa Barbara County residents concerned about the ability to be vaccinated against COVID-19 were told the Public Health Department is planning weeklong vaccination clinics for three areas that could provide more than 28,000 doses.
The first mobile clinic began Sunday in Lompoc for residents there and the Santa Ynez Valley, with additional clinics following in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara over the following two weeks.
The clinics were announced March 23 as local public health officials and government representatives answered questions about COVID-19 vaccinations posed by residents of Santa Ynez Valley and other parts of Santa Barbara County in a virtual town hall meeting.
Hosted by 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, state Sen. Monique Limón and Congressman Salud Carbajal, the livestreamed town hall meeting provided County Public Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso and Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg an opportunity to address the public’s concerns.
The more than 150 questions submitted in advance ranged from the efficacy and safety of the vaccine to how the vaccination program is administered, with a number of individuals concerned about the ability to obtain appointments.
But before any questions were posed, Do-Reynoso announced the Public Health Department would send a mobile clinic to Santa Ynez to vaccinate residents and staff at the Golden Inn & Village senior living facility and would distribute as many as 100 doses to homebound seniors in the area.
Then on Sunday, the county opened the first of three seven-day vaccination clinics in Lompoc.
“I am thrilled to share with you that we will be offering 1,350 appointments per day for the next seven days in the Santa Ynez Valley and Lompoc community,” Do-Reynoso said. “And then at the end of the seven days, we hope to vaccinate 9,450 community members.”
Pfizer first doses will be administered from now through April 3 at the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center in Lompoc. Appointments can be made at https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/ or by calling 211 and pressing option 4 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. seven days a week.
The Santa Maria clinic will begin April 5, followed by the Santa Barbara clinic April 12.
Weeklong clinics will be open to anyone in the county from one of the eligible groups, which include those age 65 and older, ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and disabilities, and workers in food, agriculture, child care, education and emergency service jobs.
Among the questions that were submitted for the town hall meeting, people asked if the vaccine has caused any long-term negative effects, and one referred to vaccine-caused deaths reported on the internet.
“Unfortunately, not everything you read on the internet is true,” Do-Reynoso said. “There has not been a death reported [that was] caused by the vaccine, but I want to underscore this: There has been over 540,503 deaths today in the U.S. due to COVID-19, due to the infection, due to the illness.
“The available vaccine is our best option right now, our best option to protect ourselves, our families, our friends and our community,” she said.
Ansorg said the scientific community is satisfied with the process that led up to the emergency authorization to distribute the vaccines, but because they were just approved late last year, information on long-term effects is not available.
However, he added that those involved in the vaccine trials from a year ago have shown no adverse effects.
“I would say that as of right now, California has given over 15 million doses, and Santa Barbara County has given around 150,000 doses … and we have seen very few bad vaccination reactions, all of which recovered very well with appropriate medical treatment and no long-term nasty side effects to date,” he said.
Another question asked why people have “vaccine hesitancy.”
“I think community members have vaccine hesitancy because they are worried and they are anxious about what they’ve read or heard in social media, via friends, what they understand,” Do-Reynoso said. “I think much of this is misinformation with just a little bit of science to make it sound reasonable when, in fact, the information being portrayed are false statements.”
She said her department has been collaborating with community partners who can provide simple, accurate, science-based information and urged those who are hesitant about vaccination to get information from trusted websites like those of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and the County Public Health Department.
Some other questions and abbreviated answers included:
Q: Do we have to get the vaccine?
A: No. Emergency-authorized vaccines cannot be mandated.
Q: When will the vaccine be available to all residents?
A: It should become available to everyone during the first week of May.
Q: Why isn’t there one website to register for a vaccination?
A: The MyTurn website will be active throughout California by the end of March and will provide a single location to sign up for a vaccination appointment.
Q: When MyTurn is launched, how will people without computer access make vaccination appointments?
A: Appointments can be made by calling 211 or the state’s appointment number at 833-422-4265.
Q: Why is Santa Barbara County behind in administering vaccines?
A: It’s not. The county ranks 21st out of the state’s 58 counties for doses delivered.