On Thursday afternoon, Lompoc Valley Medical Center began administering hundreds of COVID-19 vaccines to Santa Barbara County educators.
LVMC administered some 450 Pfizer vaccines on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, 450 educators will be vaccinated each day. The effort to vaccinate the TK-12 educators was a combined effort of LVMC, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, and the Santa Barbara County Education Office.
Those receiving vaccines were provided invitations from their district, charter, or private schools. The educators were those working in higher-risk settings or with vulnerable populations.
“We are very pleased to play an important role in vaccinating our county’s educators, as well as our other community members,” said LVMC Chief Executive Officer Steve Popkin.
Lompoc Valley Medical Center has already administered more than 5,300 vaccinations to healthcare workers and community members meeting age guidelines.
“This means feeling comfortable about going back into the classroom to teach my students,” said Jessica Villasenor, a 1stand 2ndgrade teacher at Olga Reed Elementary School in Los Alamos. “It feels like a transition toward better days ahead.”
Orcutt kindergarten teacher DeeDee was planning to retire if she didn’t receive a vaccine. After 25 years as a teacher, she wasn’t ready to leave the classroom but felt it wasn’t safe without the vaccine.
“The vaccine gives me permission to do what I love,” she said. “This is an opportunity for me, my (school)children, my family, and my community. I didn’t want to exit out of my career from a Zoom screen. That doesn’t have enough panache. I didn’t want to end my career by pushing a button. That’s not how I imagined Leilani Sandstrum, an Orcutt School District bus driver, was pleased to be getting the vaccine.
"It's great. We all want to be safe and start the process of getting back -- hopefully -- to a normal life."
Debbie Penny, a Hope Elementary School Special Ed teacher, drove to Lompoc with one of her instructional aides. Both received vaccines.
“Having the vaccine helps me feel a lot calmer,” she said. “When I get my second shot on the 25th, I'll feel a whole lot more calm. I know we'll still wear masks and social distance; I'm perfectly fine with that.”
RachelMalm, a Santa Ynez ValleySpecial Education ConsortiumBehavioral Tech, said she was extremely sick with COVID in January and thought the illness would kill her. She said she received approval from her physician to get vaccinated.
“I feel a sense of safety for myself, being able to work with my kids. I've already had COVID, so I'm kind of keen to get vaccinated. After getting sick, I was even more concerned for my kids I work with. They are in fragile health, and I didn't want them to get sick. I can’t express how grateful I am.”
Santa Barbara County Education officials provided roses for the educators, while those vaccinated also received an “I got my COVID-19 vaccine at Lompoc Valley Medical Center” stickers.