What to know if you have an ongoing health condition

Last updated: Nov 3, 2021
The vaccines are highly recommended for people with chronic illnesses.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a dangerous threat to people with certain medical conditions. If you get the disease, you’re at a much higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying. Herd immunity is on the rise, thanks to the vaccine rollout throughout California. With time, this will bring an end to the pandemic. Still, confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and COVID-related deaths are far too high

People of all ages with certain medical conditions have an increased risk of severe illness and hospitalization if they contract COVID-19. That’s why it’s highly recommended they get vaccinated as soon as they can. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other chronic lung diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions
  • Obesity
  • Asthma and/or hypertension

Managing an ongoing medical condition is hard enough without the added stress of the threat of COVID-19. The vaccine(s) are one of our best tools for protecting you and others from getting the disease. If you are hesitant to get your COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to understand the safety and effectiveness of all three vaccines and how getting vaccinated can keep you healthy. We want to help, so we’ve answered some of the questions you may have about the different vaccines and the benefits of getting the shot(s).

What to know about the COVID-19 vaccines if you have a medical condition

  • Getting vaccinated will help everyone, including people with medical conditions. Everyone has suffered during this pandemic and the vaccines are a big step towards recovery. The vaccines get us one step closer to enjoying daily life, time with friends and family, and everything else we’ve been missing. 
  • In clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine, the most frequent underlying medical conditions people had were obesity (35.1%), diabetes (8.4%), and pulmonary disease (7.8%).
  • Clinical trials for the Moderna vaccine showed it to be highly effective among people of diverse age, sex, race, and ethnic categories, as well as people with underlying medical conditions.
    • Among those who participated, 22.3% had at least one of the following high-risk conditions: lung disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, or HIV infection.
    • Four percent (4%) had two or more high-risk conditions.
  • The FDA experts found clear evidence in clinical trial results that the Janssen Vaccine (better known as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) is effective in preventing COVID-19. They found it is safe for people with health conditions, like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, including those over 60 years of age.

All three vaccines are safe and effective

  • The vaccine does not give you COVID-19. It only instructs your body on how to protect itself from the virus should you get it.
  • All of the vaccines are scientifically proven to be safe and effective. People with certain medical conditions were included in all of the trials.
  • Millions of Americans have been vaccinated. This includes many people with various medical conditions.
  • No one has died from any of the vaccines.
  • Severe allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare. They only occur in two to five (2 to 5) people per million vaccinated. After you get the shot, you’ll be asked to stay for 15 to 30 minutes so you can be monitored for a rare allergic reaction. If you have history of allergic reactions, you can let a staff member know. In that case, you’ll be asked to stay for the full 30 minutes.
  • There are no reports of any long-term effects from the vaccines. However, studies show that the long-term effects of COVID-19 can last for weeks or months. This includes everything from fatigue and difficulty concentrating to problems with the heart and lungs. Just one more reason to protect yourself against it.
  • If you have concerns or any of the underlying conditions listed by the CDC, please talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated. These include:
    • HIV and/or a weakened immune system,
    • Autoimmune conditions (such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis),
    • Previously had Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), and
    • Previously had Bell's palsy.

Don’t forget, it’s still important that you continue to manage your health and follow your treatment plan. If you have any concerns or issues with that, please talk to your doctor.

What to know as you think about getting the vaccine

  • The vaccine is free. You do not need health insurance to get it.
  • Everyone can get the vaccine. Your immigration status does not matter.
  • Schedule an appointment to receive your vaccine at My Turn. All Californians age 5 and over are eligible as of November 2, 2021.
  • Don’t have internet access or email? Call (833) 422-4255 to schedule an appointment.

After you’ve been fully vaccinated, you’ll likely feel a sense of relief that life can start to get back to normal. Talk to your doctor for guidance about any precautions you may still need to take. And keep in mind that even after you are vaccinated, it’s important to continue to protect yourself and others. That means you should still wear a mask and practice social distancing when in public. That will help keep everyone safe as we wait for more Californians to get vaccinated.

Ready to get vaccinated?

Sign up on My Turn

Additional COVID-19 resources for people with medical conditions

Have more questions?

View COVID-19 resources

Related articles

What we know about long-term COVID-19 right now

Here’s what scientists have learned so far about the most common lingering effects and how to manage them.

Removing barriers to getting a COVID-19 vaccine

We are working hard with the state to make the vaccines available to everyone.

Why older adults shouldn’t wait to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Getting vaccinated will help protect you from getting the virus.

Addressing COVID-19 concerns in Pacific Islander communities

We answer common questions those in Pacific Islander communities may have.

Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Indigenous peoples of America communities

We answer common questions those in Indigenous peoples of America communities may have.

Your simple guide to COVID-19 testing

Discover the differences between the two types of diagnostic COVID-19 tests and learn which one may be best for you.

Your 5-step plan to stay safe with diabetes

Now’s the time to double down on good blood sugar control. But that’s not your only safety measure.

6 groups of people who are at higher risk for COVID-19

If you’re an older adult or have underlying conditions, it’s hard not to worry about COVID-19. But knowing the details can help you stay healthy.

Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Asian communities

We answer common questions those in Asian communities may have.

COVID-19 concerns in Black communities

Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Black communities

We answer common questions those in Black communities may have.

Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Hispanic/Latino communities

We answer common questions those in Hispanic/Latino communities may have.

What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for teens

Some teens 16 and up are eligible to get the vaccine now.

The high-risk people who need the COVID-19 vaccine most

If you’re living with lung disease, hypertension, or diabetes, getting the coronavirus shot is especially important.

Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines available now

Learn how the three approved shots stack up and find out why all of them can help keep you safe.

Get to know your treatment options for COVID-19

Learn about the latest treatments available for adults and children with mild, moderate, or severe COVID-19.

A parent’s guide to the COVID-19 vaccine

What you need to know to help protect your child from COVID-19.

What everyone with diabetes should know about the COVID-19 vaccines

How long will you wait for a shot? What are the side effects like? Here’s the essential info you need.

Heart disease and COVID-19: Your 5-step plan to help you stay healthy

Now that the coronavirus has your attention, here’s how to help protect yourself.

The future of COVID-19 vaccine research

Here’s what scientists know now about the virus— and what they hope to know soon.

A family having a meal together in a backyard

Your biggest questions about flu shots and COVID – answered

Learn how to protect yourself and your family from getting sick this winter.

When to get the updated COVID-19 booster

Updated booster shots are here. Learn when is a good time to schedule one – and how to maximize your protection.

Helping you – and every community – with COVID-19 support

Here are five ways we’re helping you and your family stay healthy.

Pick the best COVID test for every situation

An at-home rapid test may be a better option than a PCR test. Find out why.

The latest COVID-19 treatments: How they work and who they’re for

These medications can help people recover from the virus. But they’re not for everyone. Find out when and why your doctor might recommend one.

Your helpful guide to COVID-19 vaccines for little kids 

You can now protect your child under 6 with safe and effective COVID-19 shots.

Myths and facts about long COVID

What you need to know if some of your COVID-19 symptoms linger.