Santa Barbara County Public Health officials announced Friday afternoon that they will open up vaccination appointments to workers in education and childcare, agriculture and food, and emergency services starting March 1.
Those sectors are included in the state’s Phase 1 B vaccination plan, including people 65 years of age and older.
Up to this point, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have only opened up vaccinations to those 65+ along with healthcare workers and long-term care residents, which are in Phase 1A.
“I kind of feel for [SLO County Health Officer] Dr. Borenstein in that situation because everyone’s like, we are open now, we can vaccinate this group and the counties can’t,” said Christine Williams, Atascadero District Teachers Association President.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials say more than 22,000 people have been vaccinated in the county so far, with nearly a quarter of them already receiving their second dose.
“It’s something that I am hearing a lot from our members and from people who either want their vaccines themselves or if someone’s unsure they still want their colleagues to have access to it,” said Cody King, Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association President.
Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that only 35 of the 58 counties in California are prioritizing vaccines for educators and he wants to change that moving forward.
“Effective March 1, not only are we doing that through our third-party administrator but we are also setting aside 10% of all first doses,” Gov. Newsom said.
According to San Luis Obispo County Office of Education Superintendent James Brescia, the health department is working with local schools and childcare centers to implement this request.
“All agencies are prioritizing the in-person staff for vaccination when the allocated vaccination slots become available,” he said.
As some local school districts are beginning to open up, teachers believe the vaccine will be key in staying open.
“For some people, because of either their loved one’s health risk or their own, actually being vaccinated will alleviate part of that and again it’s not the only thing. I have a lot of educators who are in classrooms with medical risks that if they were to contact COVID, it’s a scary proposition,” Williams said.
While some other counties have already started vaccinating teachers and farmworkers, health officials in Santa Barbara County say they feel they’ve been getting their fair share of vaccine doses.
“For a large county, typically, they have more multi-county hospital systems which get their additional vaccines, they have – perhaps because of their large population and demographics – they receive direct federal partnerships via CVS and Rite-Aids, so it really all boils down to the number of vaccines and the sources that exist in that county,” said Van Do-Reynoso, Santa Barbara County Public Health Director.
Do-Reynoso says the county learned just last week that it will start receiving at least 500 doses a week as part of a federal partnership allocation in addition to the doses received from the state, and she anticipates seeing different streams of vaccines coming into the county.