En español | Which vaccines are available and who can get them?
- Pfizer & Moderna: Authorized for people age 6 months and older. Both Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology, which prompts the body to make its own version of COVID-19’s spike protein, a key part of the virus. Both require two shots spaced apart for full primary vaccination, except for Pfizer recipients ages 6 months to 4 years, who are given three separate doses.
- Novavax: Authorized for adults age 12 and older. Novavax uses a more traditional vaccine technology, directly delivering a lab-made version of the COVID spike protein upon injection. Requires two shots spaced apart for full primary vaccination.
- Johnson & Johnson (J&J): Authorized for people 18 and older who only have access to the J&J vaccine, or who cannot receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for medical reasons. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its J&J guidance due to a rare but serious blood clotting disorder associated with the one-shot vaccine.
Which boosters are available, and who can get them?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting an omicron-specific booster, which targets the original strain of the virus and the variants that are currently circulating and expected to continue circulation into the fall (BA.4 and BA.5). The original vaccines, called monovalent vaccines, will no longer be available as booster doses for people ages 5 and older.
- Pfizer boosters: People ages 5 and older should get Pfizer's omicron-specific booster at least two months after receiving a primary series or booster, according to the CDC.
- Moderna boosters: The CDC recommends people ages 6 and older get Moderna's omicron-specific booster at least two months after receiving a primary series or booster.
- Novavax boosters: Adults age 18 and older are authorized at least six months after receiving their primary series if they have not yet received a COVID-19 booster, the CDC says. Novavax’s monovalent booster is available for adults who cannot or will not get an mRNA vaccine or the Omicron-specific booster.
- Immunocompromised people: Third doses of Pfizer and Moderna, distinct from boosters, are recommended for specific immunocompromised people 12 and older. People in this age group who are immunocompromised are eligible to get an omicron-specific Pfizer bivalent booster at least two months after their primary vaccine series and boosters, regardless of how many they’ve previously received. For people 18 and older with the same health conditions, an omicron-specific Moderna bivalent booster is recommended at least two months after their primary vaccinations and boosters, no matter how many they’ve received previously.
For immunocompromised children 11 and younger, the CDC has specific recommendations.
Can I mix and match boosters?
It’s safe and effective to choose which vaccine you receive as a booster, either Pfizer or Moderna, regardless of which initial vaccines your received. Note that the Novavax booster can only be used as a first booster shot; if you’ve already received one or several boosters, you cannot receive a Novavax booster. Health officials have discouraged people from receiving an initial J&J vaccine or booster due to a rare but serious blood clotting disorder.
Where can I get a vaccine or booster?
- Pharmacies, health departments, clinics and other locations: Shots and boosters are being administered at retail pharmacies and facilities affiliated with the California Department of Public Health, certain federally qualified health centers, local clinics and other locations, such as doctor’s offices.
- The federal government’s vaccines website, Vaccines.gov, lets you search for vaccine and booster sites by zip code, with links to appointments. Get the same information by texting your zip code to 438829 or by calling 800-232-0233 (TTY: 888-720-7489). California's COVID-19 dashboard tracks how many people have been vaccinated in the state. You can also check with your primary physician’s office to see if COVID-19 vaccinations are being offered.
- If you are a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering COVID-19 vaccinations at VA facilities. Sign up online or call 800-827-1000 to make an appointment.
What should I bring to my vaccine or booster appointment?
Some vaccination sites ask for proof of identity or eligibility. Bring a driver’s license or other state-issued ID that shows your name, age and state residency, along with your health insurance card, if you have one. You won’t be charged for the initial vaccine series, or a booster shot, but the vaccine provider may bill your insurer a fee for administering the vaccine. After your first shot, bring your vaccine card for subsequent shots.
How are vaccinations working in nursing homes and long-term care facilities?Most long-term care residents and staff were offered first and second doses through a federal program that provided free on-site vaccinations in late 2020 and early 2021. The program has ended, but the federal government continues to allocate COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to pharmacies that are partnered with long-term care facilities to provide vaccinations, mainly on-site.
Facilities that don’t have a pharmacy partner are encouraged to work with local or state health departments — or the federal government, if need be — to provide vaccinations.
Do I have to pay for the vaccination?
You should not have any out-of-pocket cost for getting the vaccine or a booster. AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself.
Scammers are purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.
What should I do with my vaccine card?
You should get a small white card at your vaccination appointment with your name, birth date, name of the vaccine you received and the date it was administered. If you receive the Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax vaccine, bring your card when you get your second shot.
You may need your vaccine card to schedule a third vaccine dose, for certain immunocompromised people, or a booster shot. You may also need it for certain kinds of travel or other activities, so keep it in a safe place. You can take a photo of it with your smartphone for your own records. Experts say that posting a photo of your card to social media could make you vulnerable to identity theft.
If you’ve lost your vaccine card, call the site where you were vaccinated to request a new one or a copy of your vaccination record. You can also contact your state health department to request a replacement card or a copy of your record.
How protected am I post-vaccination?
All vaccines reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections and are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from the disease. But no vaccine is 100 percent effective, and infections can still occur post-vaccination.
Where can I get more information in my region?
- California Statewide Notification Page
- Alameda County: Alameda County Public Health Department COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Contra Costa County: Contra Costa Health Services Department COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- El Dorado County: El Dorado County Health and Human Services Department COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Fresno: Fresno County Department of Public Health
- Los Angeles County: County of Los Angeles Public Health Department COVID-19 Hub | County of Los Angeles Public Health Department COVID-19 Vaccine Resources
- Marin County: Marin County Health & Human Services COVID-19 & Vaccine Information
- Napa County: Napa County COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Placer County: County of Placer Health and Human Services Department COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Sacramento County: Sacramento County COVID-19 Information | Sacramento County COVID-19 Vaccine Information
- Santa Clara County: Santa Clara County Public Health Department COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- San Diego County: San Diego County COVID-19 Information | San Diego County Vaccine Information
- San Francisco County: City and County of San Francisco COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- San Mateo County: San Mateo County Health Department COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Solano County: Solano County COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Sonoma County: Sonoma County COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Sutter County: Sutter County COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Yolo County: Yolo County COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
- Yuba County: Yuba County COVID-19 and Vaccine Information
This guide, first published on Dec. 18, 2020, was updated on Oct. 20, 2022, with new information about Novavax boosters.