SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With vaccine eligibility restrictions fading in Santa Barbara County, thousands on the South Coast are preparing to get their shots.
This week, Santa Barbara County Public Health opened COVID-19 vaccine eligibility at Public Health-run clinics to everyone 16 years or older who lives or works in the county. Those getting the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine must be 18 years or older.
“It’s exciting because it really means two things: One, it means our vaccine supply has increased to the point where we can now offer vaccines to that wider variety,” said Nick Clay, director of Santa Barbara County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency. “And secondly, it’s just sort of this sprint to the finish line, or at least whatever the next chapter is.”
On Thursday, the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort hosted a J&J vaccine clinic that delivered roughly 1,200 shots, while appointments opened online for more clinics at the same location next week.
“It actually went a lot smoother than we were expecting,” said Estele Konrad, who got her vaccine at the Hilton Thursday with Lucas Steuber. “I mean, when I was looking at the time, it was like less than 30 minutes out of our life. It’s gonna change our lives now.”
“Really friendly, really welcoming,” Steuber said of the clinic's volunteers.
“The folks who are working here are incredibly happy to be here, and fortunate to be here working and supporting the vaccine effort,” Clay said. “And the folks getting the vaccine feel very fortunate, so that really just uplifts the entire room.”
Public Health will be administering between 1,200 and 1,600 Pfizer vaccines at the Hilton next Monday through Saturday, with the exception of Tuesday serving as a day for second Moderna doses.
People getting shots must come with identification and be able to prove they live or work in Santa Barbara County. Those under 18 getting the Pfizer shot must bring a parent or guardian with them to their appointment.
Appointments for next week's Public Health clinics at the Hilton can be found here.
Other vaccine providers, such as pharmacies and medical centers, are on different timelines and may not open eligibility to those 16+ until California's set date of next Thursday, April 15.
Along with working toward vaccine equity across the County, Clay says Public Health's biggest remaining hurdles are maintaining vaccine supply and combating health guidance fatigue.
He urged people to continue to wash their hands, wear masks and practice physical distancing in public for the time being.
“We’re hungry to get back to normal life, but we have to keep our eye on the prize,” he said.