San Luis Obispo County has moved into an active fight against the coronavirus pandemic, beginning to vaccinate local residents against the deadly COVID-19 disease.

SLO County rolled out its COVID-19 vaccine program in early January starting with health care workers who provide direct, in-person clinical care, and the residents and staff of long-term care facilities. That’s where the majority of SLO County’s 151 deaths so far have come from.

Beginning Jan. 18, the County Health Department widened its target patients to anyone 75-older.

“Residents over 75,” the County said in a news release, “are first in line in the Phase 1b group because people age 75 and older are at higher risk for serious COVID-19 illness or death than other age groups. Allocating the County’s limited vaccine supply to this group will help prevent the most serious outcomes.”

The County said it expects to have enough vaccine to open up vaccinations to others that fall within the 1b categories “in February or March, maybe sooner.”

That Phase 1c would include “vulnerable community members and critical infrastructure workers. With dates and line-ups to be decided,” according to the County.

The 1c people include anyone 50-64 and people 16-49 who have an underlying health condition or disability, “which increases their risk of severe COVID-19.”

These would include: water and wastewater; defense; energy; chemical and hazardous materials; communications and IT; financial services; government operations/community-based essential functions. Of course these are subject to change.

The County currently has two vaccination sites: San Luis Obispo Vaccine Clinic, 2156 Sierra Way, SLO; and the Paso Event Center (Mid State Fairgrounds), 2198 Riverside Ave.

A third vaccination site was slated to open at Arroyo Grande High School on Monday, Jan. 25, according to the County.
The goals for the vaccinations locally seem modest, as the County said it planned to administer some 900 shots a week (Monday-Friday) across the three sites, based on how much vaccine the Health Department has been able to get. They would do more if they had the medicine.

“With this additional vaccine clinic, the County is prepared to administer upwards of 3,000 doses daily [15,000 a week] when supply allows,” the County said. “Over 4,000 vaccine appointments were booked for this week within hours of opening the appointments up to the public, following the County’s expansion into the first part of Phase 1b, allowing residents over 75 to receive their first dose.”

If readers make an appointment to get the vaccine but can’t find a ride, the County is offering door-to-door rides through transportation agencies. “Anyone with an appointment can call RTA Runabout at (805) 541–2544 or call Ride-On at (805) 541-8747 to schedule a no-cost round trip to a vaccine clinic.”
Go online to: www.RecoverSLO.org/vaccines or call the County at (805) 543-2444, 7-days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to find out if you are eligible now, or will have to wait.

But it’s not all good news with regards to the life-saving vaccine. The Health Department said it was halting use of the Moderna COVID vaccine after some people had an allergic reaction and the State Health Department alerted the vaccination agencies. So far the cautions have only been for one batch of vaccine, which unfortunately was shipped here, too.

“The County Public Health Department confirmed today that it received 4,400 doses of the single lot in question,” the department said, “but none of these doses have been administered yet in SLO County. These doses will be reserved until the State provides further guidance and validates their safety. The State will not immediately replace the doses at this time, which could cause a temporary setback in distribution of second doses to people in SLO County.”

County Health Director, Dr. Penny Borenstein said, “Our priority from day one has been to administer vaccines effectively and safely. While some mild side effects from the Moderna vaccine are normal, we want to be especially careful to make sure all vaccines are safe for our community. We will await further guidance from the CDC and the State before administering these doses.”
The State said a “higher-than-usual” number of adverse reactions were reported at a lone California clinic.
Apparently that was enough to shut down use of the entire batch of vaccine, affecting thousands of citizens.

The County said it would continue honoring all appointments for the first of two doses of the vaccine, but the bad batch of serum could delay people from getting the second, booster shot, at least until the company replaces the vaccine.

“While a second dose of vaccine is highly recommended to ensure maximum immunity against COVID-19,” the County said, “public health officials say receiving the second dose a few weeks later than expected will not be detrimental to health and will not require the recipient to start the vaccine series over. Residents awaiting their second dose of vaccine will be informed by text or email when new appointments are available.”

Meanwhile, SLO County along with Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, continue to be lumped in with the Southern California “Region” in terms of the Governor’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” due to there being little to no available intensive care unit beds available in much of that region.

This even though SLO County’s available ICU beds was 50% as of Jan. 22.
So restaurants are still offering takeout only, retail stores (except large box stores like Walmart) are limited in the number of people that can come inside at one time, and salons and barber shops are closed, and movie theaters, nightclubs, churches and schools remain closed as well.

There have now been 16,437 COVID-19 cases documented in SLO County since last April 1. Some 2,085 active cases were reported Jan. 22, with 14,169 people already recovered. Some 151 people have died of COVID.
There were 38 ICU beds available with eight occupied by COVID patients. Some 52 SLO County residents were in ICU with COVID, some being treated at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria.

The worst outcomes have been among people 85-older with 81 hospitalized and 78 deaths. Those 65-84 had 208 hospitalized with 55 deaths.
There have been 130 people ages 50-64 hospitalized with 13 deaths. And 105 hospitalized ages 30-49 with five deaths.
There have been 23 hospitalizations and no deaths for those 18-29 and seven children under 17 have been hospitalized with zero deaths reported.

For information on COVID-19 vaccinations in SLO County, see: RecoverSLO.org/vaccines or call the County at (805) 543-2444, now available 7-days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The website will also have information on where readers can get tested for COVID, as well.