To increase the vaccination rate in Santa Barbara County, officials from the Public Health Department are starting to offer shots in some unique locations.
One such place is The Lark restaurant in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, where staff from the Public Health Department set up a walk-up vaccine clinic Thursday, offering jabs to passersby without requiring an appointment.
Upbeat music played through a speaker as locals wandered into The Lark’s back dining room to receive a shot of the Moderna vaccine, which public health officials offered between the morning and mid-afternoon Thursday. Within a five hour span, officials vaccinated 99 individuals, about 40 of whom set up an appointment before coming in.
One Santa Barbara resident, Dilian Reyes, received his second shot of the Moderna vaccine at the pop-up clinic Thursday. Mr. Reyes received his first shot at a Santa Maria clinic about a month ago, and was set to receive his second shot at the same location in North County on Wednesday. Once he heard about the pop-up clinic, he decided to stay closer to home.
“I saw on the Public Health website that there was a pop up vaccination site here, so I just drove five minutes rather than an hour to Santa Maria for a vaccine,” Mr. Reyes told the News-Press.
In the back room of the bakery, Public Health staff used restaurant tables and chairs to set up the pop-up clinic. When Mr. Reyes showed up to the clinic, he said it felt a little “odd” to get the vaccine in a restaurant setting, but felt reassured when talking with medical staff on site.
“As soon as I walked in, it looked like a restaurant rather than a vaccine site, so I was a little skeptical at first,” Mr. Reyes said. “I had to ask them why or how they can distribute vaccines here, and they told me they have RN’s and doctors onsite, if there’s anything that happens. It made me feel a little more secure that there (was) some medical staff available.”
In an effort to promote the vaccine to reduce barriers to getting a shot, the Public Health Department scheduled 11 pop-up vaccine clinics across the county this week. With vaccine rates in the county trending downward, the department is hopeful the rise of walk-in clinics at locations where people frequent, such as restaurants and markets, will help reach those who remain unvaccinated.
“The Mobile Vaccine Program allows County Public Health to meet community members where they live, work, play, and worship,” the department said in a statement sent to the News-Press. “This is a fundamental public health strategy in the delivery of any health services. By taking away the barrier of access, getting vaccinated becomes an easier choice to make for our community. This vaccination event, based in the heart of the Funk Zone, allowed service industry workers to have convenient access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Each time someone is vaccinated, we, collectively, move closer to the end of this pandemic.”
The decision to host a vaccine clinic at The Lark came after Kacey House, the general manager of the restaurant, approached the Public Health Department about hosting a clinic. Ms. House said she and many other local managers in the hospitality industry were struggling to get their staff vaccinated due to limited appointment availability.
“We decided that hosting our own clinic would be the best case scenario to offer (the vaccine) to the hospitality community specifically,” Ms. House told the News-Press. “Because of the vaccine availability and the amount of doses they were able to commit to, we were able to open it up to a limited amount of walk-in guests as well.”
One of these walk-in guests, Santa Barbara resident Martha Palomino, received her second shot at the pop-up clinic Thursday. She said hosting a clinic at a restaurant was not only of benefit for locals, but for businesses as well. After a tough year for small businesses, Ms. Palomino said hosting clinics at places like restaurants could bring some revenue back to struggling sectors.
“If you’re out and about to have some lunch, some dinner, (the location) is perfect,” Ms. Palomino said. “After you have your shot, get some lunch, dinner and it works out. It’s good for the restaurants, good for the businesses.”
The Public Health Department will return to The Lark for a clinic in June to offer the second shot of the Modera vaccine for those who got their first dose Thursday.
As of Thursday, 33.8% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated, which equates to about 42.2% of the population of people ages 16 and older who are fully vaccinated. While there is still a ways to go before the county reaches herd immunity, case rates in the county have been on the decline for a few weeks now.
On Thursday, 15 new cases of COVID-19 were reported by the Public Health Department, bringing the county’s active case total to 122.
Lompoc reported four new infections on Thursday, followed by three new cases in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. Goleta reported two new cases and Santa Maria, the North County unincorporated areas and the unincorporated Goleta Valley and Gaviota recorded one new case. All other areas reported no new cases on Thursday.
In the county, nine individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and two are recovering in the ICU.