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How and Where to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine in California

Senior facility gets COVID-19 vaccine
Senior living community residents and staff wait to get a
COVID-19 vaccine in Anaheim.
MediaNews Group/Orange County Re/MediaNews Group, Getty

En español | Who can get vaccinated now? 

  • Everyone age 12 and up


Where can I get a vaccine — or booster, if I'm eligible?

  • Pharmacies, health clinics and medical providers. Use the state's vaccine registration portal or contact your local health department to get a vaccine or booster appointment. Some providers are offering vaccines and boosters to walk-ins, no appointment necessary. Register for a CVS appointment — including at some Target stores with CVS pharmacies inside — online or by calling 800-746-7287. Or use the Walgreens, Walmart or Albertsons websites to schedule an appointment.
  • The federal government’s vaccines websiteVaccines.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.
  • Many transit agencies are offering free or discounted rides to and from vaccination sites.


How do I know if I need a booster shot?

Pfizer boosters are authorized for those 65-plus, residents of long-term care facilities and people ages 18 to 64 who are at high risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 — or at high risk of repeated exposure — because of their jobs, including health care staff, teachers and grocery store workers. The CDC recommends people eligible for boosters receive one at least six months after their second vaccine dose.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters are expected to be authorized in the coming weeks.  

Federal officials have already authorized a third shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for specific immunocompromised people, including organ transplant recipients and certain cancer patients. The authorization does not apply to the J&J vaccine. 

If you are immunocompromised and think you are eligible for a third shot, the CDC recommends talking with your health care provider about your medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose makes sense. You can make a third-dose appointment at the locations above or get a walk-in appointment at some pharmacies. You’ll need the dates of your previous COVID-19 vaccinations (available on your vaccination card) when making an appointment for a third dose. You may also need to present proof of your medical condition.

What should I bring to my vaccination appointment?

Officials recommend that you bring a driver’s license or other state-issued ID that shows your name, age and state residency, and your health insurance card, if you have one. You will not be charged, but the vaccine provider may bill your insurer a fee for administering the vaccine.

How are vaccinations working in nursing homes and long-term care facilities?

 Most residents and staff of long-term care facilities were offered COVID-19 vaccinations through a federal program that contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccines via free on-site clinics. The program has ended, but to ensure long-term care facilities still have access to vaccines for new residents or staff, the federal government is continuing to allocate doses to pharmacies partnered with long-term care facilities. Boosters are recommended for residents and staff who received the Pfizer vaccines, the CDC says. It’s not yet clear how those shots will be distributed.

AARP is calling for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for nursing home residents and staff. The federal government has ordered all nursing home staff be vaccinated in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid dollars.

Which vaccines require a second shot? 

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these, you’ll need a follow-up dose to be effectively immunized. The recommended second-shot date is three weeks after a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s, but the CDC says an interval of up to six weeks is acceptable. You should get a card from your provider saying when and where to return for the second dose. The state says it will send reminders via text, emails and phone calls.   

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires just one shot. Federal officials warn that the vaccine has been connected with rare, severe blood clots in a small number of recipients, especially in women age 50 years and younger.

Do I have to pay for the vaccination? 

You should not have any out-of-pocket cost for getting the vaccine. 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 or Moderna 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. 

When will kids be able to get vaccinated? 

Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for those age 12 and older; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for those 18 and older. Both Pfizer and Moderna are researching how their vaccines work in children as young as 6 months.

How protected am I post-vaccination? I’ve heard about breakthrough infections.

All three 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 breakthrough infections, while rare, have been reported.   
 
According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, breakthrough infections affect only 0.01 to 0.29 percent of fully vaccinated people in states that have reported data. The CDC is tracking the tiny percentage of fully vaccinated people in the United States who have been hospitalized with or died from COVID-19. 

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated? 

It takes two weeks to build immunity after the single-dose shot and after the second dose of the two-dose shots. Due to the continuing circulation of the Delta variant, the CDC is recommending fully vaccinated people in areas with high and substantial COVID-19 transmission wear a mask in indoor settings, including schools. 

The CDC recommends continuing to wear a mask on planes, buses and trains and other shared transport while traveling into, within or out of the United States.

Where can I get more information in my region?

This guide was updated on Sept. 27 with more information about booster shots.

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