Dear Patient of Sansum Clinic,
On Friday, February 12, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced that starting on Tuesday, February 16, people age 65 years and older will be eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination. Sansum Clinic currently follows the County’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution guidelines, to ensure we are able to vaccinate as many people as possible, in the most appropriate order.
Unfortunately, just because the county announced that people ages 65 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination does not mean that we have received more vaccine to give out. This decision makes more than 40,000 residents age 65 and over eligible, yet the County is only receiving a small fraction of that amount, much of which is needed for second doses, to vaccinate people from Carpinteria to Santa Maria.
Despite the fact that we have built a strong infrastructure for vaccine scheduling and distribution, appointment slots for the COVID-19 vaccine continue to be very limited due to a low and variable supply. We know this is incredibly frustrating for many of you, and we hope you understand this is also incredibly frustrating for us. We want to vaccinate you all just as badly as you would like to be vaccinated!
We currently have many patients age 75+ who are already on our wait list, and we will offer appointments as quickly as possible based on supply, in the order in which they were scheduled or added to the wait list.
We do see signs on the horizon that more vaccine is on the way, resulting from actions taken at the state and federal levels. In the meantime, for our patients who are age 65 and above, we are creating a wait list registration process that will be live starting on Tuesday, February 16. If you are in the 65 and older age bracket, you will receive communication from us about how to be added to that wait list. We cannot stress enough that your patience is appreciated, and that we will do our best to communicate with you as quickly as possible. It will help all of us tremendously if you can please refrain from calling us in order to be added to the wait list; we will contact you. Once on the wait list, you will receive a notification when there is an available appointment, with instructions for how to schedule it.
We expect the availability of the vaccine will increase over time and there should be sufficient supply for all adults to get vaccinated later in 2021.
COVID-19 vaccination is truly a community-wide effort. If you are able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine from any of our community partners we recommend you do so. Our partners at Cottage Health, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Lompoc Valley Medical Center and Marian Regional Medical Center, along with some pharmacies and other healthcare facilities have joined the effort. To learn more about vaccine eligibility and availability at these organizations, please review the information at the end of this letter and contact them directly.
We are still encouraging people to get either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine wherever it is available, and as soon as it is available to you. There is no preference of one vaccine over another, but remember that the second dose of whichever vaccine you receive must be from the same manufacturer, and preferably from the same provider (i.e., we recommend you receive dose 1 and 2 at the same medical facility and/or pharmacy).
You may have read that starting in mid-March this entire process will change. Currently, the California Public Health Department gets vaccine from the federal government and then allocates it across the State’s 61 jurisdictions, of which the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is one. In mid-March, Blue Shield of California will become one of the State’s third-party administrators and will allocate vaccine to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. The Public Health Department anticipates that the new vaccination registration platform called MyTurn will streamline the supply chain and help to solve the vaccine bottleneck. We will continue to share information about this change as we receive it.
Please note that if you are actively infected with COVID-19 and under isolation precautions or have had a close contact exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and are under quarantine precautions, you should not get vaccinated until you are out of the isolation or quarantine period. You can refer to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s quarantine guidance here https://publichealthsbc.org/dont-feel-well/.
If you have previously been infected with COVID-19, and have recovered naturally or in response to treatment, recommend that you consider delaying getting vaccinated for 90 days after your most recent positive test result. You may have a stronger reaction to the vaccine if you get vaccinated too soon after having had COVID-19, because your immune system is likely already “primed” as a result of the natural infection. Getting vaccinated too quickly after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis could potentially result in a more vigorous immune response (e.g., possibly more side effects). Current research also suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, due to the natural immunity you likely now have from making antibodies to the virus on your own. However, this is a recommendation and earlier vaccination can be done. (If, as part of the treatment for your COVID-19 infection, you received monoclonal antibody treatment, you need to wait 90 days, as the treatment may make the vaccination not work if given in close proximity to the infusion of monoclonal antibodies.)
If you already received your vaccine, it is still important to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands often, and avoid crowds, until more is known about the length of time that the vaccine protects you. All these infection control measures are still greatly needed, until more of our population can receive their vaccinations.
I want to personally thank you for your patience with this process. We stand at the ready to distribute vaccines quickly once we receive them, and we will continue to advocate for an increase in the supply to our local area. As always, we are here for you and are smiling under our masks.
P.S. For everything you need to know about receiving a vaccine at Sansum Clinic, including eligibility, visit covid19.sansumclinic.org.