Quick Take:

The stumbling block is the criteria listed to qualify for a booster shot when trying to book an appointment. Some have...

As the holidays approach, county health officials encourage Santa Cruzans to search for and receive their booster shot against COVID-19. But why is it important — and where can they find one?

What? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have acknowledged that the mRNA vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — have slightly lowered efficacy after six months, with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine having less effectiveness after two months.

Deputy Health Officer David Ghilarducci said, “the booster is good moving forward, because we do have waning antibodies over time … we need broad vaccinations overall, and robust antibodies to quell the spread.”

So what? Santa Cruz County health officials are striving for as close to herd immunity as possible against COVID-19. Based on current Santa Cruz Health data, 67.5% of the total county population is fully vaccinated, with 72.3% receiving at least one dose.

With the addition of vaccine eligibility for the 5-to-11 age group, those rates could increase — but it’s crucial that more county residents as a whole receive the vaccination. As Ghilarducci said, “we’re aiming to get as many shots into arms as possible.”

Backgrounder: As the Delta variant continues to spread in advance of the holidays, county health officials are encouraging all eligible persons to make an appointment for a booster.

Ghilarducci said it’s more important now as individuals prepare to celebrate the holidays with their families: “The highest risk of spreading disease is in closed indoor settings and especially with family members from outside your normal household.”

According to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guidance, boosters are available for fully vaccinated persons who received:

  • The second vaccination of either Moderna or Pfizer at least six months ago.
  • The single-dose J&J vaccination at least two months ago.

The state has asked providers to accept any patient 18 and over who fits the above criteria.

By the numbers: Booster shots are on the upswing, and Ghilarducci expects more to come as appointments are made more readily available.

“One thing driving the demand is the broadening eligibility, plus the rush to get a booster before Thanksgiving,” he said, noting that receiving a booster now wouldn’t make much difference in advance of next week’s holiday.

As of Thursday, county residents are stepping up to get their boosters, with 17.8% of Santa Cruz’s fully vaccinated population having already received their booster. Additionally, the county notes:

  • 7.6% of fully vaccinated persons between 18 and 49 have received a booster.
  • 16.7% of fully vaccinated persons between 50 and 64 have received a booster.
  • 38.7% of fully vaccinated persons over 65 have received a booster.

Can I mix and match? According to Paul Angelo, emergency management coordinator for Dominican Hospital, there isn’t much data on the amount of protection in mixing and matching vaccines for the booster, but it is safe to do so.

“We’re totally open and offering for the booster — it doesn’t matter to us what they’d like to have,” he said, noting that Dominican had all three vaccine options available.

How to find your booster: Some Lookout readers shared their concerns over weekslong waits to find booster appointments, while others said they’d had a rapid turnaround time to get their shot.

As Angelo said, it’s important to visit MyTurn frequently to find an appointment, as well as to be willing to drive a bit outside of the area if need be.

“As we get more people willing to vaccinate, we can expand our clinic and add more appointment spots,” he said. “Don’t get discouraged — it’s worth it.”

Resources: Both Ghilarducci and Angelo recommend eligible community members to visit myturn.ca.gov for more information on where they can receive a booster shot.

Dominican Hospital will also host vaccine clinics on Thursdays through at least the end of the year — with holiday exceptions — for individuals who need a booster or their initial vaccinations. Angelo said interest has increased, with the team capping Thursday’s clinic at 500 individuals.

Why it matters: Santa Cruz County is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, both in breakthrough infections and cases among the unvaccinated. Per Santa Cruz Health data as of Thursday:

  • The average number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County in the past 14 days had increased by 29%.
  • There had been two COVID-19 related deaths in Santa Cruz County in November.
  • There were 428 active COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County.

Grace comes to Lookout from just over the hill, originally from Sunnyvale but with a variety of journalism experience from across the country.After doing her undergrad at Seattle University, Grace earned...