Vaccine Rollout Bumpy and Confusing

By Sharon Byrne   |   January 28, 2021

If you feel confused and uncertain about COVID-19 vaccinations, you’re in the majority. The rollout has been confusing and startling, at times. The federal government releases buckets of vaccine to states, based on population. States set their priorities, hopefully in line with what the CDC recommends, and then allocate doses to counties based on their populations. These buckets of vaccine are finite, and as of now, the federal stockpile of vaccines is empty.

On Tuesday, January 12, at the County Board of Supervisors briefing, the guidance given by the state was to start inoculating the population aged 75+, followed by those aged 65+, with underlying health conditions that made them more vulnerable to COVID-19. That guidance has shifted to age 65+ with no health conditions. There is no registration process to sign up. Your health provider notifies you, as they had part of the vaccine supply, and it was clear our Public Health Department really wasn’t in charge of that process. 

Wednesday, Governor Newsom announced everyone 65+ would get a vaccine. No county had been notified in advance, and their phones all lit up with those eagerly seeking the vaccine.

Some of our members aged 75+ let us know they’d been contacted by Cottage Hospital to pre-register for a vaccine appointment, as soon as the weekend. What if you’ve never been a patient at Cottage, or never given them your email address? 

Thursday, Samsum issued guidance that they were going to begin giving vaccines to their patients aged 75+, but had too few vaccines for the 7,000 patients they have over 80. They were receiving 500-800 doses per week from the county public health department. They felt they could get up to administering 300-400 doses on a weekend day, but complete coverage of all their patients (some of whom presumably might also be Cottage patients) could take some time.

Friday at 4:20 pm, we received notification from Supervisor Williams that a limited number of appointments were available on the county’s public health department website for vaccinations for those aged 75+ in Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Santa Barbara County. Within two hours, those 1,200 slots were all filled. Ralph’s started taking reservations for vaccine appointments, but all slots were taken thru March, and the option to select COVID-19 vaccine was removed from their website.

Compounding the confusion and problems, Los Angeles County swiftly moved to start vaccinating their population aged 65+ starting this Thursday, by executive order of their Board of Supervisors Chair, Hilda Solis.

On Monday, January 18, Santa Barbara County Public Health announced it stopped using its Moderna vaccines because some people received medical treatment after experiencing possible severe allergic reactions. Six people in California experienced the symptoms. They all received the vaccines at the same community site. The county expects to have that lot cleared for use by authorities. If it’s destroyed, it will not be replaced.

Tuesday Evening’s County Press Conference:

16% testing positivity – we still need to slow down the community transmission rate. 

We have 2,465 active cases in Santa Barbara County at present.

205 are hospitalized, 49 in the ICU.

Less than 15% ICU capacity is projected for the next four weeks for Southern California, so we will remain under the regional stay-at-home order.

Substantial rise in cases in past week. 

15 business outbreaks (three or more employees) occurred in the first week of January. There were 14 new congregate care outbreaks reported over the previous week.The majority of cases report attending a gathering of family and friends around December holidays and New Year.

Local updates on vaccinations:

We are currently vaccinating healthcare workers and those aged 75+, but all appointments are currently full.

Vaccine doses allocated to our county by the state: 38,075

Administered: 17,033 – 44.7%

Coming soon:

1. Persons 65+

2. Those at risk of exposure in following sectors: Education, Childcare, Emergency Services, Food & Grocery, and Agricultural Workers

For more vaccine info:

You can sign up for the vaccine newsletter at

You can also call 211, and select option 4. 

Approved medical providers will be contacting their eligible patients to schedule vaccines.

There is no waitlist, to the county’s knowledge. 

It doesn’t look like it, but we are under a regional stay-at-home order. Don’t gather with people outside your household. Stay six feet away from others.

This is the first time we have developed and deployed vaccines this rapidly in response to a global pandemic, to inoculate millions. It’s an unbelievably enormous scale of operations. There are going to be delays and confusion. We need to have patience and be calm right now as the bureaucracy and machinery involved in mass vaccine deployment cranks up, finds its footing, gets more efficient, and more predictable. It’s a frustrating time, to be sure. Join the Montecito Association to get frequent updates as this situation continues to develop.


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