This past weekend was an important milestone for Sansum Clinic as we began to schedule eligible patients – those age 75 and above – to receive COVID-19 vaccine. We were able to schedule thousands of patients, most of whom simply logged into MyChart, followed several steps and self-scheduled their appointment. Operationally, we are pleased with the outcome, considering the systems and processes we have built to ensure this went smoothly.
However, there is another very important part of the story – albeit one that is beyond our control – and that is the issue of the timing of many of the appointments scheduled, which in many cases, is months out from now, because of the severe shortage of the supply of vaccine.
We have received many questions, concerns and even complaints about the timing of the appointments we are scheduling and I’d like to take a few minutes to explain the situation, what we are doing to address it, and what you can do while we wait for shipments of vaccine to increase in frequency and quantity. I talked about the vaccine supply situation in my email the week before last, but I think it is worthy of additional discussion.
Sansum Clinic continues to follow vaccine distribution guidelines issued by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. While we have continually and persistently requested a large quantity of vaccine, at this time, the overall supply remains unfortunately low in Santa Barbara County compared with the number of people who want to be vaccinated.
While we are approved to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, we do not have any control over the supply chain before it arrives to us at Sansum Clinic. There are many decisions beyond our control that impact how much vaccine we end up receiving, and when we receive it. The issues seem to be happening long before the supply of vaccine even arrives in Santa Barbara County. Vaccine manufacturers can only create so much vaccine, and once it is created, it is allocated not only throughout the United States, but also around the globe. Vaccine destined for US distribution goes from the federal government to state public health departments, and on down to the county public health department level. This week’s supply was a fraction of that requested and so low that Sansum Clinic did not get any allocation.
Sansum Clinic is standing ready with a robust infrastructure for scheduling and delivering vaccine, and yet an extremely limited number of doses to give to patients. This is beyond frustrating. We have been assured that there will be second doses provided for those who have received a first dose. We maintain only a small supply of “second doses” in case of temporary disruptions in the supply chain, so that we can continue to give out first doses to those eligible.
I truly wish the supply situation was different right now. As always, we will continue to advocate for our patients, working through every channel available to us, to do everything we can to improve things.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are 75 or over and have scheduled a visit for a vaccination far into the future, you should consider this appointment to be a placeholder. We do not anticipate this placeholder will be your final appointment time, but by scheduling an appointment even into the summer months, we can more easily notify you when an earlier date becomes available based on additional vaccine supply becoming available. We will open up more appointments as we receive vaccine doses. In a given week, we have the infrastructure and operational capacity to add anywhere from 500 to 1,000 appointments as soon as supply allows, so this give you an idea of our idle capacity – and, hopefully, how quickly appointments will be able to be rescheduled as soon as the supply becomes more reliable.
We have received many questions about whether there is a wait list for the vaccine. We plan to launch a wait list within MyChart for those who are currently eligible to schedule a vaccination once our internal development and testing are complete. We will automatically enroll patients who are already scheduled far into the future onto the waitlist as soon as it is live. If you join the wait list, you will be notified when an earlier appointment time becomes available.
If you are in an age group that is not yet eligible to schedule a vaccine, now is an excellent time to review your contact information in MyChart to ensure we have your correct information so we can reach you by email when you become eligible to schedule. A wait list option will also be available to patients who are not on MyChart.
MyChart continues to be the most expedient process for scheduling a vaccine at Sansum Clinic. If you are 75 or above and on MyChart, you should have received an email to the address you have on file with us about scheduling a vaccine. Letters have been sent to all patients 75 and above who are not on MyChart describing how to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. (Since we also can’t control U.S. mail, those letters will arrive over the next few days.) Age is currently the only criteria we are using to fill first-dose appointments for vaccinations. Receiving a letter or email is not a prerequisite for scheduling a vaccine. If you are age 75 and above at this time, you are eligible to schedule a vaccine and we encourage you to do that through MyChart.
You can also receive your vaccine through Cottage Health, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Lompoc Valley Medical Center and Marian Regional Medical Center. Some pharmacies and other healthcare facilities may also have limited supplies. To learn more about vaccine eligibility and availability at these organizations, please click here. We are encouraging people to get either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine wherever it is available, and as soon as it is available to you.
In the meantime, we ask for your patience as we work through these challenges. We are ready and eager to vaccinate our patients in as equitable, safe and orderly a manner as possible. It is important to know that your Sansum Clinic provider does not, unfortunately, have any additional tools available to them to help expedite your vaccine appointment. Our community’s providers have decided to approach distribution based on age alone, so no order from your physician is needed, nor will it affect how quickly we are able to schedule your appointment.
Thank you for choosing Sansum Clinic for your care, and as always, we will keep you posted of any new developments.