More than 200 youths get vaccines in Goleta
Richard Rockenbach’s 14th birthday present was a COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.
On Thursday afternoon, as he rolled up to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s mobile vaccine clinic in the parking lot with his dad, Rich was in fairly good spirits as a member of one of the first groups of teenagers in Santa Barbara County to receive the vaccine.
“The Band-Aid on my arm feels kind of weird, but other than that, (there’s) not really anything else weird,” he told the News-Press during his post-vaccine 15-minute waiting period in the car. “It’s nice to get a little bit more protection.”
The Pfizer vaccine was officially approved by the FDA and CDC for youth from ages 12 through 15 on Tuesday. On Thursday afternoon, Cottage Hospital officials estimated that more than 250 doses were given to teenagers in the county. And that number does not include walk-ups.
“I’m not sure how excited I am about coming back here in a few weeks to get the second one — that’s not going to feel too much better than this one,” Rich said. “But it’s nice to know that it’ll be easier to do stuff now.”
Rich’s father, Rock Rockenbach, was in great spirits behind the wheel, saying he and his wife were pleased about the CDC allowing younger teens access to the vaccine.
“My wife and I are fully vaccinated, so getting that extra level of protection is nice for going to in-person school and traveling during the summer,” he told the News-Press. “As a parent, I wasn’t worried at all. The vaccine seemed very safe. They’ve not had any adverse reactions at a level even commensurate with other vaccines. My wife and I managed both shots fairly well.”
Mr. Rockenbach explained that his kids’ biological mother lives on the eastern side of the country, and the youths had to cancel a trip to see her during the pandemic. Now, he said he feels comfortable putting his children on a plane to see their mother.
“With planes now wide open, middle seats now closed, people getting fatigued and, in some ways, becoming lax, it’s nice to have the shots in their arm so that they’ve got that extra layer of protection,” the father said, adding that he himself was also vaccinated at Goleta Valley’s mobile clinic, and “they have run this so well.”
Cars continued to file at a steady pace through the vaccine process Thursday afternoon. At this point, appointments are no longer necessary — any eligible resident can show up to the clinic and get a shot. The process still takes around 30 minutes, and the residents don’t have to step out of their vehicles.
Adriana Ricardez brought her two teenagers to get vaccinated at the drive-through clinic and said she was very excited to be able to do so.
“We couldn’t wait for them to approve it,” she told the News-Press. “We want to be vaccinated so we can start to have a more normal life.”
Ms. Ricardez shared that visiting family members in Mexico is the top priority after her children are vaccinated, especially after deaths in the family that occurred over the pandemic. She and her children were unable to attend the funerals because of the travel restrictions.
The mother added that she had no hesitation getting her kids vaccinated.
“I’ve been waiting a long time just for one myself,” Ms. Ricardez said.
Lesly and Dylen Ricardez said that they’re probably among the first out of their friends to receive the vaccine.
“It feels good,” Lesly, 15, told the News-Press after her shot. “There’s definitely less pressure and worry going outside.”
The teenager echoed that she looks forward to seeing her family and friends in person, and her brother agreed.
“I definitely feel safer now,” Dylan, 14, told the News-Press. “Now that I can see people, I just feel safer.”
Angeli Mancuso, the director of community vaccine clinics at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, said she noticed some excitement returning to the site as more first-dose patients pulled through the lot. In addition, she said it’s as busy as staff expected, with a high number of people coming without appointments, something they also anticipated.
“I think some of them (teens) are really excited. There’s definitely nervousness, but we were seeing that with the adults too,” the clinic director told the News-Press. “Emotions range as people come voluntarily for a shot. Some are super excited and really see this as the way out, and others just have health care anxiety anyway, but we’re prepared to help them out with whatever they need.”
To address any nerves the patients have, Ms. Mancuso said Cottage Health designated a slower-moving lane for people who may need to exceed the typical 30-minute drive-through time. This way, she said these individuals don’t feel as rushed and have plenty of time to ask questions.
That being said, most patients appreciate the rapid model of cruising through in a half hour.
Ms. Manciso also addressed the apparent vaccine hesitancy in the community.
“We were anticipating a little more of a cool down and we really didn’t see that. There was definitely a shift from people really anxious about not being able to get an appointment or not being able to find a vaccine, and then all of the sudden, we have plenty of supply … and the supply of patients getting the vaccine is different,” she said. “The people who were really excited about the vaccine have gotten it, and now, it’s the people who need a little more convincing.”
The director remained optimistic, though, about the solid supply and administering efforts, saying residents can essentially choose their model now.
Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s mobile clinic is on the heels of hitting a milestone: administering its 100,000th vaccine dose, which staff predicts will be administered this Saturday. Approximately 2,400 doses were given on Thursday, bringing the total number to around 96,000 vaccine doses given at the one site.
Teenagers wanting the Pfizer vaccine must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, but appointments are no longer necessary, although they are encouraged.
Residents can drive through the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital clinic anytime between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. today or Saturday.
To learn more, visit cottagehealth.org/coronavirus-covid-19.