The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in California

Posted on 04/20/21 by Andrew Soergel

En español | Who can get vaccinated now? 

  • All adults age 16 and older
  • California has paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because of a type of blood clot that has developed in a small number of people after vaccination. The federal government has called the reaction “extremely rare” but “serious.” If you have an appointment for the J&J vaccine, your provider or state or local health department may honor it with a different vaccine or may reach out to reschedule for a different vaccine. You can also contact your provider or health department for more information.

Where can I get vaccinated? 

  • Pharmacies, health clinics and medical providers. Check your local health department's website or use the state's vaccine registration portal to find appointments at some clinics. Some CVS, Rite Aid, Albertsons, Kroger, Medicine Shoppe, Health Mart, Costco and Walgreens locations are also offering vaccines. Use the state’s registration portal or contact your local health department to get an appointment at Rite Aid. 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 at certain locations.
  • Federal mass vaccination sites at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum and California State University, Los Angeles. Use the state's vaccine registration portal to get an appointment. The sites will close on April 11 as vaccines become more widely available elsewhere.
  • A federally backed online tool called VaccineFinder lets you search for vaccination sites by zip code, with links to appointments.
  • Veterans Affairs facilities are vaccinating veterans, spouses and veteran caregivers. Those enrolled in the VA health care system get priority; additional appointments will go to others who are eligible based on their age, health problems and other factors that increase their COVID-19 risk. Sign up with VA to get updates on vaccine availability and to be notified when you can make an appointment.
  • Check the state's COVID-19 vaccine website for more information or call California's COVID-19 hotline at 833-422-4255. 
  • Vaccine supplies remain limited in many areas. Most vaccine sites require you to schedule an appointment online or by phone. Appointments can be hard to get, as available time slots may be booked quickly, and you might be put on a waiting list. You can sign up at multiple sites to increase your chances of getting an appointment, but once you have confirmed a slot at one site, public health officials ask that you don’t schedule with any other provider so that those slots stay open for others. 
Senior facility gets COVID-19 vaccine

What should I bring to my vaccination appointment? 

Some vaccination sites ask for proof of identity or eligibility. 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. 

If you are prioritized because of an underlying medical condition or based on your work, you may need a note from your doctor, a pay stub or badge, or some other form of proof. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to wear a mask at your appointment. 

How will residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities get vaccinated? 

Most residents and staff of long-term care facilities are being vaccinated through a federal program that has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccines via free on-site clinics. Apart from a very small number of outstanding clinics, the program is complete. 
  
To ensure long-term care facilities still have access to COVID-19 vaccines — for new residents or staff, or for residents and staff who were initially hesitant to receive the shots — the federal government is continuing to allocate vaccines to pharmacies partnered with long-term care facilities. 

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. Providers can recoup a fee for administering the shot, but not from consumers. They would be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance company or the government (in the case of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured, for example). 

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. 

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, though distribution of that vaccine has been paused.

It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like a flu shot. 

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 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 lose your card or did not receive one, contact your vaccine provider or your local health department to get a copy.

When will kids be able to get vaccinated? 

Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for people 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is authorized for those 18 and older. Pfizer has asked federal officials to consider expanding eligibility for its vaccine to those as young as 12, and both companies are researching how their vaccines work in children as young as 6 months. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he expects high school students will be able to get a vaccine by this fall and that “kids of any age” will likely be eligible by early next year. 

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?  

Yes. Experts are still learning about how vaccines affect the spread of COVID-19, so the CDC still recommends taking precautions while in public — including wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Scientists are also studying the effectiveness of the vaccines against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus.

It takes two weeks to build immunity after the single-dose shot and the second dose of the two-dose shots. After that, fully vaccinated individuals can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, the CDC says. They can also gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless any of them are at a high risk for severe COVID-19.

Where can I get more information in my region?

This guide was updated on April 20 with more information about vaccine eligibility.

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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.

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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.

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