Vaccine Shocker: MoJo Reveals County Crackdown on Shots for Seniors Under 75 and At-Risk Patients
Updated: Jan 29
Nationally acclaimed journalist Ann Louise Bardach leads the Montecito Journal's front page this week with a hard-hitting report detailing a county crackdown on outlets providing Covid vaccinations to at-risk seniors who don't meet rigid local guidelines for a shot.
The hot-off-the-presses piece reports that, until mid-January, the Kroger Pharmacy at Ralph's on Carrillo Street had been "the go-to resource" for those with age-related or medical issues who are desperate for a vaccination.
Then the county stepped in, threatening the pharmacy with withdrawal of its license, according to the Journal story.
In an interview with Newsmakers, Bardach talked about her conversations with doctors, patients and pharmacy workers about the squeeze on vaccinations -- as well as the kindness of medical workers in Santa Maria, where she finally secured a shot after her appointment at Ralph's was abruptly cancelled.
Among those she quotes is prominent local pulmonologist Dr. Jeffrey Kupperman: "We are concerned that we can't get our most at-risk patients vaccinated now," Dr. Kupperman told her.
Both the state and the Centers for Disease Control consider anyone 65 or over, or who has underlying co-morbidities, to be at special risk in the pandemic -- but Santa Barbara County public health officials so far have strictly limited the vaccine to medical care workers and those 75 and over.
A resident of Carpinteria, Bardach reports:
"Until January 18, Kroger Pharmacy at Ralph's was filling in a crucial age gap, vaccinating those 65-plus, per state and CDC guidance -- and saving lives. The pharmacy has been the go-to resource for immunologists, pulmonologists and others for their highest risk patients....
"In mid-January, County health officials ordered Ralph's...to stop providing vaccines to those 65 to 74, regardless of co-morbidities, or the pleas of doctors or any other health considerations. Those who had waited their turn in line for weeks for their appointments were turned away.
"Not surprisingly, the county's heavy-fisted edict led to chaos, tears, blow-ups, according to doctors, pharmacy staff and impacted residents. Dozens of expectant seniors were sent home without vaccinations -- some visibly ailing or impaired by chemo or radiation treatments."
"No matter: if they cannot prove they are 75, they're sent away."
Falling into the under 75 category, but with a medical issue, Bardach reports that after the appointments of her and many others were cancelled at Ralph's, she heard on the grapevine of a facility in Santa Maria that was providing vaccinations to people in her problematic circumstances.
"We made our appointments online and raced north the next day. When I approached the nurse, I tentatively asked if there was 'some age limit.' Without a beat, she smiled and said, 'we don't turn away anyone. We're just glad you're here.' I'm not much for public displays of emotion, but I felt my eyes well up."
In our interview, Bardach was critical of the process by which local officials have rolled out the vaccine, and said the county needs a "a Covid czar" with the professional credentials, stature and influence to coordinate all the complexities and stakeholders in the process.
Her story is in the new edition of the Montecito Journal on newsstands now. You can watch our complete interview with Ann Louise Bardach via YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here.
Images: Ann Louise Bardach (charlierose.com); Bardach's story on cover of new Montecito Journal.