How do I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

To find a vaccine clinic, visit Many pharmacies and clinics now take walk-ins with no appointments needed.

For more help:

  1. Call the California COVID-19 Hotline at 833-422-4255 for help (Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday through Sunday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., TTY 711)
  2. Contact your doctor or pharmacist for guidance
  3. Check with your county public health department

Can I get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 Vaccine?

No, you will not get COVID-19 from COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccine will not cause you to test positive for COVID-19. It may cause you to test positive for antibody tests. This is because the vaccine helps build antibodies to the virus.

I had COVID-19. Should I still get the vaccine?

Even if you have had COVID-19, you should still get the vaccine. There’s a chance you can contract COVID-19 more than once, so getting the vaccine is a safe choice.

Do I have to pay for my vaccine? Or get prior approval?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine will be at no cost to you. You do not need to get a prior approval for your vaccine. You may be asked to provide your health insurance information for tracking data.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only approves COVID-19 vaccines that have found to be safe.  Experts made sure to recruit people from many different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and health conditions to be part of clinical trials to study vaccine safety.

Do I need to be insured or a U.S. Citizen to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

No.  Anyone can get the vaccine.  You do not need a Social Security Number or Government ID to get the vaccine.  You may be asked to provide some information about yourself for the doctor to confirm your insurance status. But, you do not need to give the information to get the vaccine.

How long does the vaccine immunity (fighting the virus) last?

It takes time for the body to build immunity after getting the vaccine. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provide the best defense against the virus one to two weeks after the second dose. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides the best defense starting 28 days after vaccination. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will offer natural immunity. But, as of now, scientists do not know how long this protection will last.

What if I missed my second dose?

If you miss your second dose appointment at 21 days (for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine) or 28 days (for Moderna vaccine), it is OK. Those dates are the earliest you can get the second dose. It is important to get your second dose as close to those dates to get the full strength of the vaccine.

The second dose of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. There is a small amount of data on how well the vaccines work when given after that time.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective?

All COVID-19 vaccines approved by the FDA for emergency-use are highly effective. They prevent hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.

Should I get the vaccine if I have allergies or other medical conditions?

If you have any concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, check with your doctor first. Your doctor can explain more and help you make a vaccination plan.

What are the side effects?

Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines are normal and often mild. They may happen after you get the vaccine and go away within a day or two.

Common side effects can include:

  1. Pain, redness, or swelling where you got the shot
  2. Fatigue
  3. Muscle and/or joint pain
  4. Chills
  5. Fever
  6. Headache
  7. Nausea

Can I choose which COVID-19 vaccine to take?

All FDA approved COVID 19 vaccines are safe and effective. You can choose the vaccine that meets your needs.  If the vaccine is two doses, make sure that your second dose matches the vaccine you received during your first dose.

How were the COVID-19 vaccines made so fast, and why was the government involved?

The COVID-19 vaccines were made using the same standards as for other approved medications and vaccines. Because COVID-19 has spread so fast, the government gave extra money to speed up the process to help produce and disburse the vaccines across the country.

When will I be fully vaccinated?

People are fully vaccinated:

  1. 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  2. 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If it has been less than 2 weeks since your 1-dose shot, or if you still need to get your second dose of a 2-dose vaccine, you are NOT fully protected. Keep taking all prevention steps until you are fully vaccinated.

What are the benefits to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  2. You don’t have to wear a mask or stay 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local rules and laws, and local business and workplace guidance.
  3. If you travel in the United States you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  4. If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

Can my child get the vaccine?

As of right now, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is offered for people ages 12 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for those ages 18 and older.

Why does my child need a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Although fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can:

  1. Be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19
  2. Get sick from COVID-19
  3. Spread COVID-19 to others

The CDC suggests people 12 years and older should get the COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines help protect kids from getting COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will also help them from getting severely ill even if they do get COVID-19.

Are COVID-19 Vaccines safe for my child?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines have received the most intense safety check in U.S. history.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now offered to people ages 12 and older. In the clinical trial for children ages 12 through 15, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms. Also, children’s immune systems react to the vaccine in a same way to those of older teens and young adults. No safety concerns were found in the clinical trial.

What should I expect before, during, and after my child gets the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Your child will need 2 shots given 3 weeks (21 days) apart to get the most protection.
  2. Tell the doctor or nurse about any allergies your child may have.
  3. Comfort your child.
  4. To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, have your child be seated while getting the vaccine and for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given.
  5. After your child gets the vaccine, you will be asked to stay for 15 minutes in case they have a severe allergic reaction and need treatment right away.

What side effects may my child have after getting their COVID-19 vaccine?

Your child may have some side effects, which are normal signs that their body is building protection. These side effects should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects. Side effects from the second shot may be more intense than the first shot. Contact your child’s doctor:

  1. If the redness or tenderness where the shot was given gets worse after 24 hours.
  2. If the side effects do not seem to be going away after a few days.

COVID-19 Vaccine Booster
and Additional Vaccine Dose

When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

Booster shots are now available for those who got Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

People who are able to get a booster dose are as follows:

  1. Pfizer: 12 and older At least 5 months after getting the main COVID-19 vaccination series
  2. Moderna: 18 and older At least 5 months after getting the main COVID-19 vaccination series
  3. Johnson & Johnson: 18 and older At least 2 months after getting the main COVID-19 vaccination

To book your booster shot, visit My Turn.
Read more about booster shots and booster questions and answers from CDPH.

California has ample supply to ensure all Californians who are able to get the vaccine will have access to the vaccine.

What’s the difference between an additional vaccine dose and a booster dose?

Additional vaccine dose
If you are immunocompromised (you have a mild to severely impaired immune system) your first vaccination series may not create enough (or any) defense to fight the disease. If this happens, getting one more dose of the vaccine might help you build more resistance to the disease.

The added dose appears to help protect some immunocompromised people. Because of this, the CDC suggests that immunocompromised patients think about getting a third dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). And, that they do it at least 28 days after they complete the first two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series. This includes people who have:

  1. Been getting active cancer treatments for tumors or cancers of the blood.
  2. Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  3. Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years. Or, are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  4. An advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  5. Active treatment with drugs that may suppress your immune response.

More information on a third COVID-19 vaccine dose

Booster dosage/booster shot
A booster dosage is another dose of a vaccine given to someone who got the vaccine, but whose protection later decreased with time.
CDC COVID-19 vaccine booster shot information

Do I have to pay for the booster shot?

No. COVID-19 vaccines are free to the public.

If I need a booster shot, does that mean that the vaccines aren’t working?

No. COVID-19 vaccines are working well. They are helping to prevent severe illness, hospital stays and death. And, they are working well against the fast-spreading Delta variant. But, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection. This is true mainly among certain groups of people and against mild and moderate disease.

Does getting a third vaccine dose get rid of the need for further safeguards?

No. Not everyone who is immunocompromised has a normal immune system response – even with an extra dosage of mRNA vaccine. Because we are still learning about this, it is very important to take extra care to protect yourself. When you are with friends, family and out in public, you should still follow the current safeguards, such as wearing a mask indoors.