All Californians 50 years and older are now eligible to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine while in San Luis Obispo County, residents 30 years and older are now eligible.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials said anyone older and high risk will still be prioritized even as younger populations sign up for appointments at county-run vaccination sites.
“I’m really excited to have an appointment and get in there and get it done,” said Lake Nacimiento resident Cindy Fleenor.
Fleenor is looking forward to getting a COVID-19 vaccine next week.
She became eligible nearly two weeks ago when the county opened up appointments to people 50+ before the state did but didn't have any luck securing a time slot at a county clinic before Thursday.
In addition, since many pharmacies are following state guidelines, Fleenor had to wait until April 1 when California expanded the eligibility to her age group.
“The pharmacies at that point were still saying you had to be 65 years or older and I am in the 50 to 64-year-old group," Fleenor said. "They changed it statewide to allow my group as of this morning. At 6 a.m. this morning, I was online registering with a pharmacy and got two appointments, one for myself and one for my husband.”
Others in the 50 to 64-year-old range got their vaccine through the county ahead of the state’s rollout.
“For me, I think the important thing was putting as much availability as I could. I said I would go to any of the sites, morning or night and I realize not everyone can do that, but it made it so that I was matched with an appointment right away,” said Jessica Stewart, who got her first dose last week.
Stewart has mastered the county and other pharmacy websites, helping more than 20 friends and family members get appointments, too.
“I am the unofficial vaccine hunter of my family. I realize it's really frustrating for people to deal with the technology,” she said. "The county [website], for me personally, I have never had an issue getting an [appointment] first week when they have expanded to a new group."
In a statement, a spokeswoman for San Luis Obispo County Public Health said:
"Those who are already in the registry, and people in higher-risk groups who sign up now or in the future, will be assigned appointments first. (This means an 80-year-old who signs up next week will be in line for an appointment ahead of a healthy 30-year-old.)"
Because of this, Grover Beach mom Jennifer Testa looked elsewhere when she became eligible for the vaccine.
County officials estimate anyone who signs up currently will secure an appointment in one to three weeks.
“On Facebook, actually, I was complaining. Like okay, great, we are eligible now but that doesn't matter now if we can't get an appointment, so I was kind of frustrated about that. Other people had tips and the only thing you can do is check,” Testa said.
Testa became eligible Wednesday when the county expanded to 30+.
She said she found an open appointment at Vons in Nipomo Thursday morning.
“Yesterday, I was kind of obsessively checking Vons, CVS, Costco to see if any available appointments opened,” Testa said.
Appointments are filling up in Santa Barbara County, too.
The week-long clinic in Lompoc and the first day of the Santa Maria clinic are fully booked.
"We have seen a significant increase in booked appointments but thankfully we’ve also had a significant increase in available vaccines. There is still plenty of availability later in the week in Santa Maria."
At this time, neither county expects vaccine shipment delays after millions of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses were ruined at a Baltimore factory.
To sign up for a vaccination appointment in San Luis Obispo County, CLICK HERE.
To sign up for a vaccination appointment in Santa Barbara County, CLICK HERE.