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Local pharmacies could receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine from new Biden administration rollout

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Posted at 11:12 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 02:12:54-05

More vaccines could be heading to pharmacies in Santa Barbara County as part of a new vaccine rollout from the Biden administration.

Several Albertsons and Vons across Santa Barbara County are new vaccination sites and could be a part of the expected 6,500 stores included in this new initiative.

"We're gonna have more retail pharmacies involved and definitely a lot more providers so I'm excited for that -- not just [for] being able to open more appointments in our stores, but to also be able to see other providers out there provide a similar service that we do," Chi Nguyen, Patient Care Pharmacist for Albertsons Companies, said.

Locally, vaccines are only being given out to those 75 and up, as well as healthcare workers and appointments at these stores in Santa Barbara County are filling up fast.

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"We open up availability as we get more vaccines and literally, I would open it up and it would be booked within seconds or minutes," Nguyen said.

The news comes, however, as changes to vaccine rollouts are expected across California later this month.

The state recently announced it has partnered with a third-party administrator: Blue Shield. This company will now play a role in deciding where the vaccines end up, something the County and local providers say is concerning.

Already, vaccination sites like the Lompoc Valley Medical Center say they are on pause as they hold onto what vaccines they do have, to use as second doses.

"It's just a large task [for the state] to do and if other areas that have a little more clout than we have in our area, get a little more priority - I'm a little worried about that," CEO of Lompoc Valley Medical Center, Steve Popkin, said.

Currently, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department helps determine where the vaccines are needed. The department says they're hoping they'll still have a seat at the table with these incoming changes from the state.

"It worries me a little because you don't know how this new framework is going to work and how involved we will be in some of the decision making. It's our job to make sure none of our communities - especially the hard-to-reach communities - are not left out," Paige Batson, Deputy Director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said.

At this time, it is still too soon to tell if and when pharmacies on the Central Coast will be receiving the new doses from the Biden administration. Nguyen says they are just taking everything day by day.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department says they have received 51,375 vaccine doses and have administered 30,172 of them.