San Luis Obispo County has taken several steps towards a normal world again, opening up vaccinations to anyone 12-older, and making plans to close up their three vaccination sites, as the coronavirus pandemic’s era of woe begins to wind down.

Indeed, though the County continues to register new cases, the daily counts have been low, along with active cases now hovering around 100, and only a handful of people in the hospital, with zero in intensive care.

Big Changes With Vaccinations
The County Health Department has made several changes with regards to its three vaccination sites in Paso Robles, Arroyo Grand and Cuesta College, and who can get the vaccine and when.

On May 4, the County announced that its vaccine clinics would open to walk-in patients, after months of having to make appointments.

“I encourage everyone who hasn’t yet gotten the vaccine to take this opportunity to get the vaccine easily and at no cost, “ Dr. Penny Borenstein, County Health Officer said, “while we are able to provide these large-scale community clinics across SLO County.”

The County said more than 221,700 doses of vaccine had been administered since last December by County clinics, pharmacies and community vaccine providers, with 151,600 of them at the County sites.

The numbers were high enough that on May 7 the County announced that it was going to close its three clinics on June 4. “When we stood up these large, temporary clinics,” Dr. Borenstein said, “our goal was to administer vaccines as swiftly as possible to our residents, beginning with those most at risk for COVID-19.” That would be the elderly and medically frail people, who had the most severe cases of the virus and were the majority of those who died.

Some 221 people ages 65-older have died of COVID-19 in SLO County since the pandemic started in 2020. Some 260 total people in SLO County have died from the virus, according to County stats. No one under-30 has died of COVID in SLO County.

On May 12, the County lowered its age requirements to receive the Pfizer vaccine from 16 to 12, after the CDC said it was OK.

“This safe, effective vaccine,” Dr. Borenstein said, “offers powerful protection from COVID-19 and, especially for young people, can help lift the weight of worrying about spreading the illness to others.” She added that getting the vaccine would make it safer for kids to enjoy their summer activities.

Dr. Borenstein said the vaccine was put to “a large-scale clinical trial with volunteers age 12 to 15, which demonstrated the two-shot vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. Adolescents in the trial experienced the same mild side effects as many adults did during clinical trials: arm soreness, fatigue, fever, or chills, lasting a day or two, the County said.

And while the County is planning to close up shop with its clinics, if you got your first of two shots before May 14, you can still get the second one from the County. Otherwise, you’ll need to go to a pharmacy or local doctor’s office that’s using the same vaccine.

And, the County will continue to provide free vaccines at mobile clinics and the County’s Public Health clinics in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, and Grover Beach.

To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at any of the County’s community clinics, see: myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255.

County Offers Mobile Clinics
The County has put together a new program where it will bring the vaccine to you, offering to visit neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations, businesses, housing sites and other places where community groups congregate, and they’re able to vaccinate some 200 people with each event.

“With these mobile clinics,” Dr. Borenstein said, “we are better able to reach those who face barriers to getting to a large-scale clinic or pharmacy. It’s an important part of ensuring our community as a whole is protected and ready to move forward.”

Hosting groups are asked to provide a place for the vaccinations to be given and a shady place where folks can sit for a time afterwards to make sure there are no ill effects. They will also provide health educators with written materials and to answer questions.

There is no cost to the hosts nor for the vaccinations; and all you need is proof of age.

See: www.RecoverSLO.org/MobileVaccine for information and to apply.

J&J Vaccine Resumed
The County resumed administering the controversial, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a nationwide “pause” in its use due to a serious side effect that caused blood clots in some patients.

The clotting, called “thrombocytopenia syndrome” or TTS, was observed in over a dozen cases out of some 7.9 million doses, according to the County. “Nearly all reports of TTS have been in adult women under-50, with symptoms occurring six to 13 days after vaccination,” the County said.

During the pause, multiple health agencies conducted a thorough safety review, according to the County, among them were the USDA, CDC, FDA and Western States Scientific Safety Review Working Group, which declared the J&J vaccine safe and effective on April 24, after it was paused on April 13.
The single dose J&J vaccine is different from the Pfizer and Moderna, 2-dose vaccines and overall is less effective, but still works well on COVID-19.
The County still issued a warning about the vaccine. “If you have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination, contact your healthcare provider, or seek medical care,” the County said.

The County has administered over 2,200 doses of the J&J vaccine through its three clinics.

Countywide Case Numbers Low
Countywide, the case numbers continue to be low with just 109 active cases as of the County’s May 14 stats (see: https://www.emergencyslo.org/en/covid19.aspx).

As for hospital beds, the County said 15 of the 38 available ICU beds were occupied but none of them with COVID patients. Two people were hospitalized with COVID.

Since the pandemic started there have been 498 cases in Los Osos, 440 in Morro Bay, 183 in Cambria, 72 in Cayucos and 20 in San Simeon for a total os 1,213 cases in North Coast communities.

By comparison, San Luis Obispo has had 4,305 cases, Paso Robles 4,169, and CMC, a state prison had 2,384 inmates contract the virus.

For more information on the virus, and to apply for a mobile clinic, see: www.RecoverSLO.org. The SLO County Phone Assistance Center at (805) 543-2444 is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.