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Local healthcare leaders preparing for COVID-19 vaccine to arrive on the Central Coast

Posted at 10:46 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 02:28:29-05

There could be a light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against COVID-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he expects 327 thousand doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to possibly arrive in mid-December.

The vaccine however still needs to be approved by the FDA and Gov. Newsom says that approval will still need to be backed by the state's experts.

Planning for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is now underway in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

"We've had quite a few meetings and we're feeling really prepared for the receipt of the vaccine. Of course, there's still logistical details to be worked out," Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, Public Health Director of Santa Barbara County, said.

Dr. Brian Roberts, the owner of Med Stop Urgent Care, says he's going to be helping work out some of those details for San Luis Obispo County as part of a new task force.

"At Med Stop Urgent Care Center, we are testing almost 10 percent of all tests in the county in our little shop. So we have a lot of insight into where the problems are and where the challenges are," Dr. Roberts said.

Healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities are expected to be among the first to get the vaccine.

"Broadly defined, there are over 20 million healthcare workers in the United States, but the exposure to the virus and how front line they are in respect to this pandemic are radically different between specialties. So we need to define which healthcare workers are front line ones and focus on that," Dr. Roberts said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Dignity Health Central Coast, the company who owns local hospitals like French Hospital Medical Center and Marian Regional Medical Center says:

It is too soon to have a system-wide policy on a covid-19 vaccine for employees. Currently, the vaccination will be encouraged, but not required for employees.

While getting a vaccine will be a new tool in the toolbox in the fight against COVID-19, public health officials say it will still be important to stay vigilant about not spreading the disease.

"We still need to adhere to the mask-wearing, to social distancing, to hand hygiene, and absolutely not gathering with those outside of our household. I think those four strategies in combination with the vaccine will put us as a community in a better space," Do-Reynoso said.

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials say it's likely the vaccine will be available for the broader public by this Spring.

It's still unclear at this time how many doses will be coming to the Central Coast in the next few weeks.

While other communities have had concerns over storage space for vaccine doses, Santa Barbara County Public Health officials say they have made partnerships with healthcare facilities that have sub-zero storage capabilities along with their own storage for the vaccine.

We reached out to CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid for what customers might be able to expect once the vaccine becomes available.

We did not hear back from CVS or Walgreens, but a spokesperson for Rite Aid says:

Rite Aid will be ready to administer safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations when they are available. Our team is already hard at work preparing for vaccine availability. For vaccinations that require ultra-cold storage, a combination of shipping logistics executed by the manufacturers, existing cold storage, newly acquired cold storage, and collaboration with third-parties will ensure our execution will be sound when safe and effective vaccinations are available for the American people.