Quick Take:

A weekly overview of COVID-19 vaccine progress and availability around Santa Cruz County, plus updates on booster shots, testing and more.

As of Thursday 71.1% of Santa Cruz County residents were fully vaccinated, a slight increase from the week prior. While that’s about equal to the statewide figure of 71%, Santa Cruz continues to have one of the lowest rates in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Neighboring Santa Clara and San Mateo counties had a fully vaccinated rate of 81.6% and 79.7%, respectively. Marin County was at 83.4%, the highest rate in the state.

However, as Lookout reported on Dec. 10, a quirk in the state reporting figures may be artificially reducing that number. Raw data for ZIP code 95064 — home to UC Santa Cruz — shows fewer than 20% of the more than 10,000 official residents in that area have been vaccinated.

But UCSC stats show more than 95% of students — who would be the primary residents on campus — have been vaccinated. Using this figure instead increases the overall county vaccination rate by nearly 5%. This, in turns, puts it much more in line with neighboring counties.

Asked about this, county spokesperson Jason Hoppin has previously pointed to previous statement from health officials about why this might occur — people traveling across county lines for a vaccine, for example. Still, he said, “given the continued level of asymptomatic transmission, a population-wide vaccine percentage is really not an indication of health or safety any longer.”

“The best indication of health and safety is whether the individual has been vaccinated, period,” said Hoppin.

Vaccines, boosters & wait times

The information below is accurate as of Thursday but availability and wait times can change quickly.

Though almost all of the providers below also offer vaccines for younger children, the supply for children between 5 and 11 is more limited and the wait time could be longer. Regardless of what type of insurance you have — or if you have any insurance at all — vaccines and boosters are free of charge.

In addition to those listed, additional options are available via MyTurn.ca.gov.

If you’d like us to track additional providers or other information, please send a note to news@lookoutlocal.com. Stay safe!

Health care providers

Typically, appointments made through health care providers for the initial two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have a shorter wait time than booster shots.

If you are looking to schedule a booster shot, see the pharmacies listed below if your health care provider has limited availability.

Kaiser Permanente
Multiple locations

You do not need to be a member to receive a vaccine or booster, which are offered to those 5 and older. However, if you’re not a member, you have to sign up for a Kaiser medical record number before making an appointment. This usually takes about 24 hours.

Vaccines are offered at facilities in Scotts Valley, Watsonville and San Jose. The current wait time is about two weeks.

Sutter/Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Multiple locations

Non-members will have to register to get a vaccine or booster, but do not need to be patients. This can be done either by phone or online. Wait times are typically about two weeks.

Dignity Health
Multiple locations

Only members of Dignity can schedule vaccine or booster appointments. Most locations in Santa Cruz County offer shots once or twice a week, but by appointment only. Specific wait times were not available.

115 S. Morrissey Ave., Santa Cruz

CruzMedMo offers only walk-ins for vaccines and boosters, typically on Wednesdays and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. However, the only open day for this week is Friday, Dec. 31.

Emeline Health Center
1080 Emeline Ave., Santa Cruz

The Emeline Health Center offers free vaccines for all members of the public on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. Appointments are usually available within the week of request. Call the number above to schedule.

Watsonville Vaccination Center
250 Main St., Watsonville

Offers vaccines Thursday to Sunday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Appointments can be made at https://myturn.ca.gov or by phone.

A vaccination site in Scotts Valley.
A vaccination site in Scotts Valley. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Drugstores and supermarkets

Each of the drugstores and supermarkets below requires medical and contact information to get an appointment, but receiving a vaccine or booster is free. Dates listed are the earliest available appointments.

2203 Mission St., Santa Cruz — Jan. 25-31
117 Morrissey Blvd., Santa Cruz — Jan. 21-31
2720 41st Ave., Soquel — Jan. 24-31
16 Rancho Del Mar, Aptos — Jan. 20-31

901 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz — Jan. 17-31, Feb. 1-28
1475 41st Ave., Capitola — Jan. 12, 14, 16-31, Feb. 1-28
80 Rancho Del Mar, Aptos — Jan. 17-31, Feb. 1-28
6123 Hwy. 9, Felton — Jan. 18-31, Feb. 1-28
1988 Freedom Blvd., Freedom — Jan. 15-31, Feb. 1-28

No current availability in Santa Cruz County
1140 S Main St., Salinas — Jan. 2 (Moderna)
2514 Berryessa Rd., San Jose — Jan. 4 (Moderna)
3074 Story Rd., San Jose — Jan. 4 (Moderna)
3475 McKee Rd., San Jose — Jan. 4 (Moderna)
3220 S White Rd., San Jose — Jan. 4 (Moderna)
4850 San Felipe Rd., San Jose — Jan. 4 (Moderna)

1718 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz — Jan. 10-13
210 Mount Hermon Rd., Scotts Valley — Jan. 10-13
1810 Freedom Blvd., Freedom — Jan. 8-13

220 Sylvania Ave., Santa Cruz — Jan. 10-12

Horsnyder Pharmacy & Medical Supply
1226 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz

At this location, only walk-ins are offered. They are on Mondays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; patients need to bring identification, insurance card and vaccination card. Currently, Horsnyder is offering only Moderna and J&J.

Westside Pharmacy
1401 Mission St., Santa Cruz

This Horsnyder sister store offers walk-ins for J&J on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for Moderna and J&J.

Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Getting tested

On Thursday, Santa Cruz County authorized an expansion of its testing capacity beginning the first week of January due to overwhelming testing demand.

Beginning Jan. 3, a mobile testing facility at Depot Park will expand hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments can be made through LHI.

Beginning Jan. 5, the Ramsay Park site in Watsonville will double the amount of appointments available daily. Appointments can be made through LHI.

Beginning Jan. 3, the San Lorenzo Valley mobile testing site will return to Mountain Community Resources, 6134 Highway 9.

For those anticipating international travel, most airlines and countries accept antigen, NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) or RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests. However, how soon the test results must be available prior to the flight can vary by airline and destination. Double-check that your test will be accepted within the required time frame, particularly if you have a lengthy flight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes viral tests — ones that can determine a current infection — in this way:

“Viral tests use samples that come from your nose or mouth. Rapid tests can be performed in minutes and can include antigen and some NAATs. Laboratory tests can take days to complete and include RT-PCR and other types of NAATs. Some test results may need confirmatory testing.”

Antigen tests are considered the least accurate viral test, while RT-PCRs are the most accurate, with the latter having few, if any, false positives.

Another type of test is an antibody test, defined by the CDC as:

“An antibody test (also known as a serology test) can detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in your blood. Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes to help fight infection and protect you from getting sick in the future. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection, but may indicate if you had a past infection.”

Except for CruzMedMo, each of the below testing sites does not require out-of-pocket payment for the tests, though your insurance could be charged. CruzMedMo costs $80 for an antigen test and $225 for a PCR test. No appointments are necessary and the company says results are ready within an hour.

Additionally, Lightspeed Testing offers testing at the following locations and times. Appointments are not necessary, are free of charge and results from the antigen test are available within 30 minutes. However, as Saturday is New Year’s Day, it is unclear whether testing will be available.

  • Santa Cruz Farmers Market — Wednesdays 1-4 p.m.
  • Westside Farmers Market — Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Moe’s Alley — Fridays and Saturdays 7-9 p.m.

The three sites below offer free PCR tests via LHI.Care. Turnaround is between three and five days.

In addition, many local drugstores offer at-home tests, which cost on average $25. Though these tests are quick and generally accurate, they are not accepted for travel purposes or by most facilities requiring a recent negative test.

Finally, the table below lists additional testing resources in Santa Cruz County. Be sure to call ahead, however, as almost all require appointments.

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