By Van DoReynoso, MPH, PhD, Director, Public Health

As we all wait patiently for our turn to get the COVID-19 vaccination, many are wondering how the vaccine is being distributed. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is released from the federal government, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), to states and to national pharmacy chains. Some local pharmacies (CVS and Walgreens) have been engaged in a federal partnership to specifically vaccinate long term care residents including those in Santa Barbara County. 

The County of Santa Barbara receives vaccine allocation from the State of California. The Santa Barbara Public Health Department receives an allocation from the California Department of Public Health on a weekly basis. The amount of vaccine that can be requested by a county is determined by the state and is based on a formula which considers the unique demographics of each county. Vaccine that is allocated from the state to a county is distributed in several paths.

Vaccine from the state is allocated to Multi-County Entities (MCEs) which are health care providers that function across county lines. In Santa Barbara County, the only MCE is Dignity Health. Allocations given to MCEs are intended to then be allocated to regional hospitals. In the case of Santa Barbara County, this is Marian Medical Center.

Allocations are also given from the state to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. These allocations are then distributed to local partner health providers. These include all health care facilities who have signed up as providers and registered to receive the vaccine  conduct community vaccination clinics at various locations and facilities.

Currently, there are 38 local health care providers sites, which include hospitals, clinics, providers, and pharmacies within our county that are receiving vaccine allocations. These partner providers have the capacity to vaccinate community members as we continue moving forward. 

In addition to allocating received vaccines to area providers, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department also provides vaccinations at community vaccination sites called PODs, as well as at county health centers. 

The County’s Public Health website has a vaccine page which includes information about the vaccination process, including how to sign up to schedule a vaccination appointment. Community members may also call 2-1-1 for personalized assistance in scheduling a vaccination appointment.