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More than 850 COVID-19 vaccines administered Thursday at Lompoc Vets Building
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More than 850 COVID-19 vaccines administered Thursday at Lompoc Vets Building

Frontline healthcare workers, and both residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities made up the balance of those appointments.

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Nick Clay, Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services director and community program spokesman, stands in front the Lompoc Veterans Memorial Building on Thursday. 

A rush of senior residents turned out Thursday morning at the Lompoc Veterans Memorial Building to receive a first-round of COVID-19 vaccines as part of a countywide public health vaccination program.

The by-appointment-only program is currently being offered to Phase 1A Tier 1 individuals, including residents 75 years and older and front-line health care workers.

The Veterans Memorial Building became the second designated point-of-dispensing site for COVID-19 vaccines after the program kicked off Wednesday at Hancock College, where just under 1,300 vaccines were administered to county residents also in Phase 1A Tier 1.

By late Thursday, 876 shots had been administered in Lompoc of which 583 were residents over the age of 75, according to Nick Clay, Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services director and program spokesman. Front-line health care workers, and staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities made up the balance of those appointments.

"Earlier today, we had a little bit of a backup," said Clay, referring to a large turnout in the morning that tapered off as the day progressed. "But overall, today, everyone was happy to get the vaccine and to be part of the process."

Another county public health employee posted outside to manage patient intake alongside a group of staff said that right at 8:30 a.m., a line quickly formed on Locust Avenue, in front of the Veterans Memorial Building. 

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A Lompoc resident standing behind a designated marker waits to check in for a vaccine at the Lompoc Veterans Memorial Building on Thursday. 

"You should have seen it this morning; it was a madhouse," he said.

Tom Blanco, a Lompoc Unified School District board member who was out walking his dog later in the afternoon, stopped by the Veterans Memorial Building to inquire with county staff about vaccine eligibility requirements for teachers.

"I'm interested in getting a vaccination, but I'm 62, and I don't qualify as a health care worker," said Blanco, a retired teacher. "I was just wondering when we can get our teachers vaccinated so we can get our kids back to school."

He said once he is eligible, he, too, will get vaccinated.

"I'm 100% in — a 95% efficacy is unheard of, so I'm in," Blanco said. "But I'm more interested in getting our school district teachers vaccinated."

From February to mid-March, a Phase 1B Tier 1 vaccine program is expected to be rolled out, according to the county Public Health Department website, which includes educators and child care providers, emergency service workers such as firefighters and law enforcement, and food and agricultural workers.

At the end of her shift, Lompoc resident Rosa Ramirez, 66, who works in the medical field showed up 10 minutes early for her 3:45 p.m. appointment, envisioning a long line.

"I wanted to get here early because I didn't know what to expect," she said.

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An A-frame sign situated on the roadway in front of the Lompoc Veterans Building on Locust Drive asks patients to wait in their vehicles until 15 minutes prior to appointment time.

Ramirez made her appointment online more than a week ago through her employer and said she had been anticipating receiving the vaccine.

"I just want to get it to keep my family safe," Ramirez said. "I take care of my mom every other weekend and she's in her 90s. We want to keep her safe, too."

A senior resident who didn't meet criteria for this round of vaccines showed up toward the end of the day, inquiring about "leftover vaccines."

"My parents who are in their 80s already received theirs, and I wanted to see if there were any leftover vaccines that I could get," she said, standing at a designated marker measuring 6 feet apart from the next.  

According to Clay, unused vaccines will be pushed into the next round of vaccine distributions to be announced by the county Public Health Department. 

"Anything we don't use today, if we had cancellations or didn't get as many appointments as planned, we'll shift those vaccines to next week," Clay said. "Maybe that means we can open up a little bit to the public, maybe that means we vaccinate more Phase 1A folks, but we'll use everything. No vaccine gets wasted."

Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record. 

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