SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After months of uncertainty before the completion of COVID-19 vaccines and weeks of uncertainty after, the slow rollout is finally reaching more long-term care center residents in Santa Barbara County.
According to our media partners at Noozhawk, Santa Barbara County Public Health reported last week that all residents and staff at all 14 skilled-nursing facilities have received at least the first dose of the vaccine.
But other care facilities, such as Oak Cottage of Santa Barbara Memory Care, have had to wait longer.
On Friday, roughly 80 residents, staff members and essential family members at Oak Cottage received their first dose of the vaccine.
“In my three year’s experience, this is the most celebrated and historical day today,” Oak Cottage executive director Andrea Katz said on Friday. “With the unknowns the last six months or nine months, just hoping for this day of vaccinations, it’s truly overwhelming.”
Katz added that the long-awaited arrival provides “a sense of hope, hope that we will someday be able to return back to what that 'normalcy' is.”
A make-up vaccination day for the remaining residents, staff and family is scheduled for next month, as is a day for the community to receive a second dose.
Oak Cottage partnered with CVS Pharmacy back in the fall to distribute the vaccines. On Friday, CVS set up a mobile vaccination clinic inside the facility.
“It really means everything,” said Deanna Zachrisson, a resident family member. “It’s a huge sense of relief. Because we know we have some more time with our family members that are struggling as it is.”
Zachrisson lauded the staff at Oak Cottage for how they have responded to the pandemic.
“The people that work here have just done an amazing job,” she said. “Not only at keeping the residents safe from this illness but also making everybody feel as comfortable as possible.”
That has been more difficult this winter, as the virus has spread at alarming rates. Despite strict precautions, the coronavirus has spread inside care facilities throughout the county since last spring.
The ongoing virus spread combined with the challenge of protecting some of the county's most vulnerable residents makes vaccine distribution even more crucial, and the wait for the rollout to ramp up even more excruciating.
“It’s been hard, obviously we wanted the vaccine to come sooner rather than later," Zachrisson said. "But a day like today, it feels like all that anxiety just sort of melts away and you start to feel a real sense of optimism. That things are gonna be okay.”