Vials containing COVID test swaps are prepared to be sent to a lab.
COVID test swabs from Inspire Diagnostics’ Cabrillo College site being prepared for shipment to a lab.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
COVID Today

Vaccine update: Rates, where to find a COVID shot or test; wait, cost and turnaround times

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, 71.3% of Santa Cruz County residents were fully vaccinated, a slight increase from the week prior. While above the statewide figure, 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 fully vaccinated rates of 82.1% and 80.2%, respectively. Marin County was at 84.1%, the highest in the state.

However, as Lookout reported on Dec. 10, a quirk in the state reporting figures could be artificially reducing that number by as much as 5%.

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Infections are increasing at an exponential rate. On Dec. 29, county health officials put the 14-day change in the rate of new cases at 12%. That rate is now 187%. Still, the number of hospitalizations, while increasing — up 14.3% from two weeks ago — is far below that rate. In addition, the total number of deaths in Santa Cruz County has remained steady at 228, the same as a week ago.

Health officials said this could be because the Omicron variant is more contagious but less deadly, because so many more people are now vaccinated than during previous waves — or some combination of the two as well as factors yet to be discovered.

About 1,000 UCSC students were tested on campus Sunday, which led to a total of 42 students and six employees testing positive — the highest number UCSC has recorded so far, according to the university’s online data dashboard.

Dr. David Ghilarducci, Santa Cruz County’s deputy health officer, again stressed the importance of vaccines and boosters.

“My understanding is that nearly all hospitalized patients are either unvaccinated or not boosted,” he said. “The risk is now shifting ever so much more clearly to that subgroup of the population that hasn’t been vaccinated yet.”

While cases are still rising, Ghilarducci says that the evidence of the vaccines working is becoming more and more obvious.

“There’s pretty strong evidence that the booster shot will reduce your chance of death by 90%,” he said. “Especially if you’re older, have underlying conditions, and even if you consider yourself young and healthy, if you haven’t had your first shot, now is the time.”

He added that despite the rapid surge of cases, hospitalization rates remain lower than with previous variants.

“If we had this many cases last year, hospitalizations would be significantly higher at this time,” he said.

While Ghilarducci did corroborate the growing body of evidence that Omicron tends to result in milder symptoms, he remains steadfast in his promotion of vaccines.

“Those that are vaccinated are faring much better than those that are not, even with Omicron,” he said. “The data is very clear.”

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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
866-454-8855

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
844-987-6115

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.

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Dignity Health
Multiple locations
831-288-6526

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.

CruzMedMo
115 S. Morrissey Ave., Santa Cruz
831-241-7501

CruzMedMo offers only walk-ins for vaccines and boosters, typically on Wednesdays and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. However, all appointments are booked this week.

Due to a shortage of COVID tests, CruzMedMo will be offering appointment-only testing this week and is currently fully booked. As of now, the company plans to resume normal service hours at Faith Community Church — 115 S. Morrissey Ave., Santa Cruz — on Monday.

Emeline Health Center
1080 Emeline Ave., Santa Cruz
831-454-4100

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
833-422-4255

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 young girl gets her COVID-19 vaccine
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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.

Safeway
2203 Mission St., Santa Cruz — No current availability
117 Morrissey Blvd., Santa Cruz — Jan. 25-31, Feb. 1-28
2720 41st Ave., Soquel — Jan. 29-31
16 Rancho Del Mar, Aptos — Jan. 12, 25-31, Feb. 1-28

Rite-Aid
901 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz — Jan. 20-31, Feb. 1-28, Mar. 1-6
1475 41st Ave., Capitola — Jan. 19-31, Feb. 1-28, Mar. 1-6
80 Rancho Del Mar, Aptos — Jan. 20-31, Feb. 1-28, Mar. 1-6
6123 Hwy. 9, Felton — Jan. 22-31, Feb. 1-28, Mar. 1-6
1988 Freedom Blvd., Freedom — Jan. 19-31, Feb. 1-28, Mar. 1-6

CVS
No current availability in Santa Cruz County
8063 San Miguel Canyon Rd., Salinas — Jan. 6 (Moderna)
268 Reservation Rd., Marina — Jan. 6 (Moderna)
2514 Berryessa Rd., San Jose — Jan. 9 (Moderna)
3074 Story Rd., San Jose — Jan. 9 (Moderna)
3475 McKee Rd., San Jose — Jan. 9 (Moderna)
3220 S. White Rd., San Jose — Jan. 9 (Moderna)
4850 San Felipe Rd., San Jose — Jan. 9 (Moderna)

Walgreens
1718 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz — Jan. 14-19
210 Mount Hermon Rd., Scotts Valley — Jan. 15-19
1810 Freedom Blvd., Freedom — Jan. 12-19

Costco
220 Sylvania Ave., Santa Cruz — Jan. 13-18

Horsnyder Pharmacy & Medical Supply
1226 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz
831-423-2315

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
831-423-7175

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.

Lightspeed Testing at Downtown Famers Market
(Haneen Zain)

Getting tested


On Dec. 30, Santa Cruz County authorized an expansion of its testing capacity beginning the first week of January due to overwhelming demand.

A mobile testing facility at Depot Park — 119 Center St., Santa Cruz — now has expanded hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments can be made through LHI.

As of Wednesday, the Ramsay Park site in Watsonville — 1301 Main St. — was doubling the number of appointments available daily. Appointments can be made through LHI.

The San Lorenzo Valley mobile testing site will return to Mountain Community Resources, 6134 Highway 9 in Felton. The site is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Tuesday; appointments can be made through LHI.

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education is also sponsoring drive-through testing for students, parents and guardians and school staff Monday through Saturday, no appointment necessary, at:

  • Santa Cruz COE Annex parking lot, 399 Encinal St., Santa Cruz
  • Cabrillo College, Parking Lot K, 6500 Soquel Ave., Aptos
  • Pajaro Valley Unified School District office, 294 Green Valley Rd., Watsonville

Students, parents, guardians and school staff can register and find the most current testing hours here.

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.

  • Santa Cruz Farmers Market — Wednesdays 1-4 p.m.
  • Westside Farmers Market — Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Moe’s Alley — Fridays 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. as well as for selected shows

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.