Tuesday, April 13, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 6

Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on April 6th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 6

With more allocations and a new registration system, more Santa Barbara County residents can get COVID-19 vaccines


If you’re wondering when it will be your turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the answer may soon be found on My Turn, a state-run vaccine scheduling platform that’s being onboarded by providers in Santa Barbara County and across California. 

“The state envisions My Turn as the single point where communities across the state can search for vaccine appointments and schedule their appointments,” Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso told the Sun

Just the vax
Sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department at countyofsb.org/phd. Or call 211 and press option 4 for appointment information.

Each vaccine provider must introduce the system separately, and with Public Health currently in the middle of the process, Do-Reynoso expects the department to be fully onboarded in a few weeks. Sansum Clinic and Cottage Health are already onboarded, she added, and Lompoc Valley Medical Center is working through it.

My Turn has run into challenges in other parts of the state, such as software glitches and exploited access codes intended for underserved populations. But as more and more providers get through the process, Lompoc Valley Medical Center Chief Operations Officer Dr. Naishadh Buch said he believes My Turn is the right move forward.

“It takes over the scheduling function from us. Right now, any time we have a vaccine clinic, either we’re scheduling the people ourselves directly, or for instance, the county Education Office [provides] us a list of people they’re going to send, and they’re taking care of the scheduling,” Buch said. “So the scheduling function goes away from entities and becomes a personal responsibility.”

The benefit is that people only have to sign up once to be notified of possible appointment opportunities from a number of nearby providers, Buch said.

Now anybody 16 and older in Santa Barbara County is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the county’s Santa Maria vaccination clinic. Vaccines available to those 18 and older are offered at the county’s Santa Barbara vaccination clinic.

“People are saying, ‘Sign up everywhere, get an appointment in 10 different places, and go get the first one,’” Buch said. “Well, that’s obviously very inefficient, because now you have 10 appointments being made for one person to get one vaccine, and so those are nine other slots that somebody else couldn’t get.”

Buch expects Lompoc Valley Medical Center to be ready to start using the software in mid-April.

“Probably in the first couple of weeks, we’ll be a hybrid of My Turn and our own, because we still have to give second doses to all the people that we gave first doses to,” he said. 

Marian Regional Medical Center and other Dignity Health Central Coast hospitals are opting not to onboard with the My Turn system, President and CEO of Pacific Central Coast Health Centers (PHC) Dr. Scott Robertson told the Sun in an email. However, Dignity Health’s PHCs did enroll and have been using the system for the past few weeks, he said.

“When working properly, My Turn will provide a single platform for patients to easily search and register for available vaccines in their respective counties,” Robertson wrote. “Management of the vaccination process is more efficient for PHC, as our offices no longer have to make outbound calls in order to fill open vaccine appointments; they are automatically filled through the system.”

An efficient vaccine registration system will soon be needed more than ever, as California plans to open up eligibility to anyone 16 and older beginning on April 15. In Santa Barbara County, the floodgates opened even sooner: The county announced April 5 that community members who are 16 and older were eligible to get an appointment at the Public Health Department’s Santa Maria clinic, happening until April 11. Community members 18 and older were able to sign up for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments at the county’s Santa Barbara clinic happening April 8. People can sign up for a vaccine appointment on the Public Health website or by calling 211 and pressing option 4.

Do-Reynoso said the county’s vaccine allocations come through two supply chain channels: a federal allocation used for the county’s mass vaccination clinics, and then the weekly state allocation. As of March 31, the county had just received enough federal doses to administer 10,000 vaccines a week, plus an increase in the state allocation to 4,400 doses, Do-Reynoso said at an April 2 press conference.

“[The state is] basing our allocation on our 16-plus population, as well as our health equity metrics, so it is an increase from last week,” Do-Reynoso told the Sun.

Do-Reynoso is confident that the county has the manpower to administer the growing supply of vaccines.

“Because we had an incredible increase of vaccines from the feds for our clinics, we were able to ask for assistance from the state, so we do have state staff on hand, and we’re asking for additional,” she said. “On top of that we have a pretty solid core of county department support as well as county Medical Reserve Corps volunteers. … We have the solid infrastructure, and we can ramp up or ramp down.”

Even with this help and infrastructure in place, Dignity Health’s Dr. Robertson said there could be some challenges. 

“We are almost there and expect in the next several weeks the supply of vaccines will exceed our ability to administer them,” Robertson wrote. “While we understand that this may present a new bottleneck in the process, we welcome local public health departments expanding vaccine eligibility.”

Do-Reynoso is hopeful that anyone who wants a vaccine appointment will soon be able to get one. On top of the current allocations, she said the county just got word that the federal government began negotiating with Costco to provide another vaccine option.

“I don’t anticipate difficulty in getting an appointment,” she said. “I’m so encouraged. The task is now making sure that people seize that opportunity.”

Staff Writer Malea Martin can be reached at mmartin@santamariasun.com.

Weekly Poll
What do you think about the county opening up the vaccine to 16-plus at some clinics?

It's about time!
I'm worried it will make it harder to get an appointment.
I would have preferred more sectors to get access before opening to everyone.
The state plans to do the same thing in about a week, so it doesn't make a big difference.

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