Sansum Clinic opened up a vaccine clinic intended for educators to its waitlist Thursday. Many TK-12 staff members had already received a vaccination.
More than two weeks ago, educators became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and the state set aside 10% of its allocation to TK-12 staff.
Codes to register for a vaccine went to school districts — who then had to prioritize staff members for the first spots.
When clinics and pharmacies opened appointments to educators, many teachers secured their doses apart from districts.
“We’ve been surprised at how many have already been vaccinated, which is fantastic,” Dr. Kurt Ransohoff, Sansum Clinic’s CEO and chief medical officer, told the News-Press Thursday.
Sansum Clinic administers 15 doses every 10 minutes at its center at 215 Pesetas Ln. in Santa Barbara. When educators canceled their appointments, other eligible patients on Sansum’s waitlist stepped in.
“The teachers have been reacting very enthusiastically, very excited,” Kim Hurley, director of operations, said. “I think relief is probably their biggest emotion — relief and feeling like they’re safe to go back to their classrooms.”
Most of Santa Barbara County’s elementary educators went back to campus the past two weeks. Public health officials estimate the county will reach eligibility Tuesday for secondary schools to reopen.
“I think Johnson & Johnson is great for the teachers as well because they have one (dose) and then they’re completed. And we really want schools to open, so it’s really great for them to have the one, be done and then go back to school,” Ms. Hurley said.
The COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require 21 and 28 days between doses, but Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine only requires one shot — cutting down the number of appointments providers like Sansum Clinic administer.
“Most people are happy to get one shot,” Dr. Ransohoff said. “And occasionally, we have had some people, a small handful of people, who say that they would prefer to get another vaccine.”
He encounters patients intent on a particular manufacturer, but Sansum Clinic offers one vaccine manufacturer each day. Many pharmacies disclose the brand of vaccine when patients set appointments.
“Our standpoint is that you should get whatever you can because these vaccines are incredibly similar in terms of how effective they are, particularly in how effective they are against winding up in the hospital,” he said.
He discourages “shopping around for a vaccine.”
“Some people will talk about the differences in the vaccines. I’m not sure that we really know (the differences) because the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was tested in a different sort of environment,” he said. “By the time it was tested, there were already these variants that were not present on the other two that were tested. That’s why that metric of preventing death and hospitalization is so important.”
The vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson demonstrated 85% efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19. And all the vaccines were 100% effective preventing hospitalization and death.
Sansum has increased distribution over the past two weeks, which Dr. Ransohoff attributes to the pent-up supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines and increased production of Pfizer and Moderna doses.
“Distribution has significantly increased for us over the last two weeks. I have heard that it might be flat for a week or two and then it’s gonna ramp up again,” he said. “But there’s been notably more vaccines.”
Ms. Hurley expects the process to pick up when the state’s system, MyTurn, is widely used.
Cottage Health scheduling began on myturn.ca.gov last week, and Sansum Clinic will join this week. Sansum plans to still schedule appointments through its own system as well.
“I think the main goal is to get all of us vaccinated as expeditiously as we can and just get out there. And if they have a vaccine for you, and you get an appointment, I would recommend going and getting your vaccine,” Ms. Hurley said.
This week, high-risk Californians join the eligible groups.
“I think the citizens of Santa Barbara have been very good about waiting their turn and understanding that sometimes it can seem arbitrary,” Dr. Ransohoff said. “I think people are understanding. And it’s hard; there hasn’t been enough for everybody.”
Other providers have set up clinics like Sansum to reach educators. Lompoc Valley Medical Center vaccinates hundreds of community members each day.
“We have heard from multiple staff, both teaching and non-teaching, how much more they can now enjoy returning to campus because of the added layer of protection,” Bree Valla, Lompoc Unified School District deputy superintendent, said. “We are grateful for all the hard work of the Lompoc Valley Medical Center staff in helping our staff get vaccinated.”
To check eligibility and schedule an appointment, go to myturn.ca.gov, though some providers are not yet in the MyTurn system.