Santa Barbara County hospitals give first shots
Cottage Hospital receives nearly 2,000 doses
10 months of waiting.
10:03 Thursday morning.
The COVID-19 vaccine has finally arrived in Santa Barbara, and Cottage Hospital welcomed it with open — and shot-ready — arms.
The first box of the Pfizer vaccine was delivered around 10 a.m. Thursday morning at the loading dock at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
“You could almost hear a universal cheer go on throughout the entire hospital community,” Ron Werft, president and CEO of Cottage Health, said, mere hours after the first vaccines were administered to staff members.
The hospital received nearly 2,000 doses and expects a similar shipment next week as well.
“We’re here to celebrate a milestone of hope for our healthcare heroes, our frontline workers, our hospital and for our community as well as we begin the rollout of the vaccine for COVID-19,” Mr. Werft told reporters Thursday afternoon. “This is a really exciting day.”
Today, in its first full day, Cottage Hospital will administer a little over 150 vaccines to healthcare workers working directly for COVID-19 positive patients or patients who could possibly have COVID-19. Then, starting Monday, 300 vaccines will be administered every day, likely vaccinating all Cottage employees within the next two to three weeks.
Officials are still unsure when the Moderna vaccine will receive FDA approval, but Mr. Werft said he thinks it will be “fairly soon.”
“Staffing is our most precious resource… We’re adequately staffed today, but I would say that’s why making sure that people in our community protect themselves is absolutely critical so that we make sure this precious resource of ours, that we have sufficient numbers to take care of patients,” Mr. Werft said.
Cottage Hospital has four freezers at negative 70 degrees with “more than adequate” freezer capacity for all the shipments.
In addition, the CDC and American Hospital Association released information Wednesday that the vials may hold more than five doses and possibly six.
“We can confirm that,” Mr. Werft said, answering a question from the News-Press. “It was our experience just a few hours ago with the very first bottle, which provided a sufficient vaccine for six doses.
“All of our planning has been based on the assumption that there are five doses per vial, so if that holds with these future shipments, that’s about a 20% increase in the number of doses we’ll be able to give out,” he said. “That was very, very good news.”
Lorenzo Vasquez was the first Cottage Hospital employee to receive the vaccine, and conveniently, it doubled as a birthday gift. He’s a registered nurse in the COVID unit.
“It’s one of the best birthday gifts I got,” Mr. Vasquez said. “I already felt safe with the PPE (personal protection equipment) that Cottage has provided for us, but just as a healthcare worker on the frontlines taking care of COVID patients, I know how to do my part in getting the vaccine.”
He added that the vaccine didn’t hurt, and it barely even felt like he got a shot.
Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease physician at Cottage Hospital, was also among the first employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The next few days and weeks are going to be difficult. We know that, and we are so much better armed with this vaccine here and ready to help,” she said. “As I’ve reviewed the science, as I’ve reviewed the publications, as I’ve reviewed the data that has come through over the last few months and in an accelerated way over the last few days and weeks, I am very reassured about what I hear about the vaccine, about what I read about the vaccine and the remarkable protection that is going to give our healthcare workers.”
However, Dr. Fitzgibbons touched on one of the most crucial reminders as the vaccine is rolled out worldwide: “Receiving the vaccine changes nothing.”
“It changes nothing with regards to my recommendations for my patients, for my colleagues, and it changes nothing with regards to my own practices,” she said.
She said that data has yet to be released about whether, in addition to protecting against developing symptoms of COVID-19, the vaccine protects as robustly against picking up the virus and transmitting it to someone else.
“What is going to blunt our curve? What is going to help most in our community? What is going to absolutely bring the curve to a halt?” Dr. Fitzgibbons asked. “It’s not going to be the vaccine itself, but rather, the vaccine combined with our ongoing commitment to wearing masks, staying well away from people outside of our households and continuing to really align shoulder to shoulder and keeping one another in these communities safe.”
Mr. Vasquez echoed that he will still keep his distance from high-risk family members, wear his mask and shower immediately when he gets off work.
Dr. Fitzgibbons added, “As we enter into this next phase right now, to have an assurance that I have my safety belt on a little bit tighter for what’s ahead is very appreciated.”