Removing barriers to getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Last updated: Apr 22, 2021
We are working hard with the state to make the vaccines available to everyone.

The COVID-19 vaccines are here and millions of Californians have already been vaccinated. Anyone over 16 is now able to get a vaccine. To make it easier for more people to get vaccinated, the government is working to remove barriers. For example:

  • The vaccine is free for everyone.
  • You don't need insurance to get a vaccine.
  • You don't even need to be a U.S. citizen.

If you’re running into other barriers to getting vaccinated, keep reading to see how we – along with the State of California – are working to remove those barriers. These could be: 

  • Lack of transportation to vaccine sites,
  • Difficulty getting time off work,
  • Lack of understanding due to language, or
  • Technology issues.

To help ensure that vaccines are reaching the people most at risk, 40% of the state’s vaccine supply is being set aside for communities with higher death and infection rates. Also, we’re working with the state and the state vaccine network to set up mobile clinics and pop-up sites to reach these areas. 

Below are other ways to we’re helping remove barriers to getting the vaccine.

I don’t have transportation. How can I get to a vaccination site?

Reach out to a friend, family member, or community group. They may be able to drive you to a vaccination site. You can also see if public transportation is available. If accessibility is an issue, note that all vaccination sites must be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. 

Vaccine transportation options include:

  • Friends/family
  • Community group
  • Mobile clinics/pop-up sites that are walking distance
  • Public transportation
  • Call the Car for select plans
  • Local provider, pharmacy, or health department
  • Department of Health Care Services for Medi-Cal

Some Blue Shield of California plans have transportation benefits. You may be able to use these to get a ride to and from a vaccination site. Call the Car will transport you to and from your vaccine appointment. This includes sites at medical facilities, retail pharmacies, and vaccination clinics that can give the vaccine outside of a car. The vaccination clinics must allow the patient to be safely dropped off and picked up. To see if you are eligible, check your Evidence of Coverage or Member Handbook. You can also call the Customer Care number on your member ID card. 

If you have a Blue Shield Promise Medi-Cal plan, you can also reach out to the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) for help. Email them at DHCSNMY@dhcs.ca.gov. Do NOT include personal information in your first email.

If your plan doesn’t have a transportation benefit, you can check for available transportation options with your local:

  • Healthcare provider
  • County or city health department
  • Pharmacy

They might also be able to help you get a vaccine at home if you are not able to travel to a vaccination site. Some areas may have mobile clinics or pop-up sites. This may make it easy to simply walk to get vaccinated. 

I can’t get time off work easily. What should I do?

Are you worried sites won’t be open after work hours? Blue Shield is working with providers to offer more flexible appointment times. Also, some sites – like pharmacy retailers or large-scale venues – may be open evenings or weekends. Check your local public health department to find hours of operation for vaccination sites. 

The state is also working with employers to make sure you can get the time off you need. Vaccinations for essential workers is a state priority. Getting vaccinated helps keep you and your workplace safe. Talk to your employer to learn what time off options are available to you. This could be to get the vaccine or recover from it if you have side effects. Some employers may even have transportation services. 

I don’t speak English. Are translation services available?

Language barriers can make it hard to set up an appointment. The My Turn site is available in 12 languages: English, Spanish, simplified and traditional Chinese, Tagalog, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Armenian, Khmer, Punjabi, and Vietnamese. 

You can also call the COVID-19 Hotline instead of using My Turn. The hotline is accessible to those with disabilities. The hotline offers services in English and Spanish. Translation services are also available in more than 250 languages. 

Interpreters are available at most large vaccination sites. You can also reach out to health navigators or promotores. They can help you understand the information and tell you where to go.

I don’t have a smart phone, email, or the internet. Is there another way to set up an appointment?

You can call the COVID-19 Hotline at (833) 422-4255, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be prepared to wait on hold for a while. It can require patience to book an appointment, but it’s worth the wait. 

Setting up an appointment is hard and confusing. Is there any help for this?

Initial vaccine supplies are limited. This can make getting an appointment difficult. As vaccine supplies grow and more sites open, more appointments will be available.

You can contact your local public health office for help. You can also ask a friend or family member to help schedule an appointment online or by phone. Or, contact your local doctor, pharmacist, or community health center. They may be able to help you set up an appointment. Or, ask if they can let you know when the vaccine is available in your area. 

We are working hard with the state to make the vaccines available to everyone. You can also check with your faith-based organization, Tribal health system, elders, or health and science experts in your community. They may have resources to help you get vaccinated. Local radio stations or newspapers may also have resources.

Remember: the vaccine is free and available to all – regardless of immigration status or health coverage. And you can sign up on My Turn to get vaccine notifications or schedule an appointment. You can also call the COVID-19 Hotline if that’s easier at (833) 422-4255. If you’re having trouble with My Turn, try other options: your healthcare provider, local pharmacy, or county public health office. 

We encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn. This will help keep you, your family, and your community safe. It will also help you get back to doing the things you love most. 

Ready to get vaccinated? Find a location and schedule an appointment.

Sign up on My Turn

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