How and Where to Get COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters in California

Posted on 12/02/21 by Andrew Soergel

Senior facility gets COVID-19 vaccine

En español | Who can get vaccinated now? 

  • Everyone age 5 and up


Who's eligible for a booster shot?

All adults 18 and older should get a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their initial two-shot series, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People 18 and up who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should also get a booster dose at least two months after their first shot, the CDC says.

Third doses of Pfizer and Moderna, distinct from boosters, are available for specific immunocompromised people, including organ transplant recipients and certain cancer patients. These recipients may also get a booster — a fourth dose — at least six months after the third shot, according to CDC guidance

Can I mix and match boosters?

Yes, it’s safe and effective to choose which vaccine you receive as a booster — whether it’s the one you got initially or another vaccine, according to CDC recommendations.

Which vaccine is authorized for kids?

Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for children age 5 and older; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for those 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds is one-third the dose given to people age 12 and up, and is given in two doses, three weeks apart, according to CDC recommendations. Shots for kids are available at doctors’ offices and certain retail pharmacies. Call your doctor or check pharmacy websites. Both Pfizer and Moderna are researching how their vaccines work in children as young as 6 months. 

Where can I get a vaccine or booster?

  • 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. 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. Note that some pharmacy websites require you to answer questions about your vaccination status before presenting the option for a booster. Many sites let you book appointments for the specific brand of vaccine or booster you prefer, based on availability. Some providers are offering vaccines and boosters to walk-ins, no appointment necessary.
  • 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.


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. 
 
Most nursing home staff are required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 as per a federal mandate for staff in health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid dollars. Most assisted living, memory-care and other long-term care facilities are not subject to this mandate, as they are regulated by the states, some of which have their own mandates for workers. 

Which vaccines require two initial doses?

Both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these, you’ll need a follow-up dose to be effectively immunized. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires just one shot, with a recommended booster two months later. A Food and Drug Administration warning states that the J&J vaccine has been connected with rare, severe blood clots in a small number of recipients, especially in women age 50 years and younger, and an increased risk of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder. 

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 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. 

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 relatively rare, have been reported.    

The CDC is tracking breakthrough infections and illness and death among vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.  

Where can I get more information in my region?

This guide was updated on Dec. 2 with more information about boosters.

800-div-line-gray.jpg

Also of Interest:

This story is provided by AARP California. Visit the AARP California page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

More from AARP in Sacramento

Upcoming AARP Events

View All AARP Events »


Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

AARP Member Card

Join or Renew Today

JOIN FOR JUST $16 A YEAR

  • Immediate access to your member benefits
  • Discounts on travel and everyday savings
  • Subscription to the award-winning AARP The Magazine
  • An ally on the issues that matter most to you in Sacramento
  • Free membership for your spouse or partner
JOIN NOW