COVID-19 vaccine: Member information and FAQs

Some of the most important tools to help stop the COVID-19 pandemic are safe and effective vaccines. Please check this page often for updated information.

The top three things you should know about the COVID-19 vaccines are:

  1. As a Blue Shield of California or Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan member, you will have no out-of-pocket costs; the vaccine is fully covered for you. In fact, vaccines are free to all Californians with or without insurance. 
  2. There is currently limited supply of the approved safe and effective vaccines. As a result, the state is prioritizing those highest at risk for getting COVID-19 or having a severe illness from it. The general public will be able to get vaccinated in Phase 3, which begins on April 15.
  3. You will need to continue with preventive measures before and after getting vaccinated:
    • Stay home and isolate if you’re sick
    • Wear a mask
    • Practice social distancing
    • Wash your hands often
    • Minimize mixing with other households


Table of contents


About the vaccines

The following COVID-19 vaccines have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • Pfizer
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen

Other vaccines are also being developed and will be reviewed.

What does Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) mean?

The FDA ensures medical products are safe and effective for us to use. FDA approval can often be a long process. EUA helps the FDA provide faster access to medical products during a health emergency. It balances known risks and benefits to the public.

EUA helps when there are no other adequate, approved, and available options. EUAs may change as the FDA completes approvals, clears, or licenses the medicines or treatments.

You can learn more about EUAs on the FDA’s website.

Are these vaccines safe?

Safety is a top priority. The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all COVID-19 vaccines are as safe as possible.

COVID-19 vaccines are carefully looked at in clinical trials with thousands of people. In each of these trials, people are closely checked for any health risks. Once the trial results indicate the vaccine is safe and effective, it can be authorized by the FDA.

Checks on the vaccine will continue in the real-world setting. These can help researchers know if there might be very rare side effects or long-term risks not seen in trials. 

Also, California has formed a Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to look at data to help ensure the COVID-19 vaccine meets safety requirements. 

Read this fact sheet about the vaccines. You can also read this article about safety and efficacy.

How were these vaccines developed so quickly?

The speed to development of these vaccines may seem fast. But there was no cutting corners. The apparent speed comes from worldwide collaboration between:

  • Scientists,
  • Pharmaceutical companies, and
  • New technologies.

The U.S. government was able to help aid faster development, too. It worked closely with pharmaceutical companies and supported swift distribution efforts.

All vaccines come with side effects or some risk. But the FDA, in authorizing the COVID-19 vaccines, concluded that their benefits outweighed their risks.

Are these vaccines effective?

Each authorized vaccine has been found to be effective in protecting against COVID-19. What we know today is that these vaccines decrease:

  • Risk of getting COVID-19,
  • Severe illness or hospitalization as a result of COVID-19, and
  • Death from COVID-19.

Compare that to the annual flu vaccine, which is between 40% and 60% effective at reducing the risk of flu illness.

Bottom line: In the clinical trials, all three COVID-19 vaccinations resulted in:

  • Zero deaths
  • Zero hospitalizations
Vaccine Efficacy Effectiveness at Preventing Death
Pfizer 95% after 14 days from second dose 100%
Moderna 94% after 14 days from second dose 100%
Johnson & Johnson 85% at preventing severe illness after 28 days from single dose 100%

You can learn more about safety and effectiveness in our article.

How is effectiveness measured for the COVID-19 vaccines?

All authorized vaccines currently available in the United States have been found to be safe and effective. The relative differences in effectiveness results comes from multiple factors and cannot be used to directly compare the vaccines:

1. Sample size

The number of people who took part in the clinical trials varied by vaccine.

2. Location

Each vaccine was tested in different places around the world.

3. Timing

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested later in the pandemic. During this time, new strains were becoming more common in certain parts of the world. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were not initially tested against these strains, which seem to spread more easily and quickly. 

4. Metrics

Each of the clinical trials used a range of doses given at different times to measure effectiveness.

How is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine different from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are mRNA vaccines, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine:

  • Is a single-dose vaccine,
  • Can be stored in a standard refrigerator,
  • Offers faster protection,
  • May limit the spread of the virus, and
  • Uses viral vector technology which inserts common cold type of virus that has been modified so it cannot cause disease.

This means this particular vaccine can be distributed to more people, more quickly. In turn, this may help us get to herd immunity faster.

So far, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also has noticeably milder side effects, according to the FDA.

What are the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines?

The ingredients in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines include pieces of mRNA, lipids, salts, sugars, and buffers. These ingredients help make the solution stable as well as getting into cells where they need to be to work.  

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine includes a common cold type of virus that has been modified so it cannot cause disease (the viral vector). This allows the pieces of the COVID-19 spike proteins that are put into it to be able to get into cells. As with the other vaccines, there are buffers and other ingredients to help make the solution stable.  

These vaccines do not contain:

  • Eggs,
  • Preservatives, or
  • Latex.

You can find a full list of the ingredients for all the authorized COVID-19 vaccines at the CDC’s website:

Why get a vaccine?

In a single year, COVID-19 became a leading cause of death in the United States. The vaccines are 100% effective at preventing death from COVID-19. 

The mild side effects you may get from the vaccines are far less severe than getting sick from COVID-19. There have been no documented deaths from the vaccine.  

Getting the vaccine will help protect you and your loved ones from severe illness or death and reduces the risk of getting COVID-19. 

The more people who get vaccinated, the more we can reduce restrictions and return to “normal” daily life.

The pandemic has also had major impacts to local and national economies. Getting vaccinated is the first step to ending the pandemic. It puts us on the road to faster economic recovery.

Learn more about the benefits of vaccination from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How many COVID-19 vaccine doses do I need? When do I need them?

This varies by vaccine.

Vaccine # of doses Waiting period between doses
Pfizer 2 21 days apart
Moderna 2 28 days apart
Johnson & Johnson 1 N/A

If you skip the second shot of the two-dose vaccines, you will not have the full protection that the vaccine offers. It is important to get both shots for Pfizer and Moderna to be fully protected.

Are there side effects to the COVID-19 vaccines?

Yes. Side effects are normal with most vaccines and are usually mild. Reported side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Pain at the injection site

These symptoms are signs that the body is building immunity. They may be uncomfortable. The good news is these side effects don’t last long. 

Severe allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely rare and have not resulted in any deaths. 

How long does it take to be protected after vaccination?

Protection from the vaccines is not immediate and varies by type. In most cases, it will take one to two weeks following the full dose to get the most protection the vaccine can offer.

As the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single shot, it provides the quickest protection.

For the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, some protection begins building after the first shot (about 50% effectiveness two weeks after first dose). But you’ll get the most protection one to two weeks following the second dose. 

Vaccine Timing for full protection Waiting period between doses
Pfizer 5 weeks after first dose 3 weeks
Moderna 6 weeks after first dose 4 weeks
Johnson & Johnson 5 weeks after first and only dose No waiting period

I heard there are new COVID-19 strains. Are the vaccines effective against them?

All viruses change (mutate) over time. COVID-19 is no exception. Most mutations have little to no impact on how a virus behaves. They disappear over time. 

Of the COVID-19 strains that have mutated, three have become the primary focus of health experts: "UK," "Brazil," and "South Africa."  The CDC and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are tracking these new strains. A new variant found in California is also being tracked. Read more in our article about the new strains.

Early results suggest the vaccines offer strong protection against the UK strain but somewhat less protection against the South Africa strain. Even if vaccines are less effective against some strains, they are still worth getting. This is because they make infections less serious.

In other words, if you are vaccinated your symptoms may be milder if you get the virus.

Continue to follow the preventive measures recommended. These are also effective against the new variants:

  • Staying home except for essential activities
  • Wearing a mask when leaving home
  • Limiting interactions with people outside your immediate household
  • Keeping physical distance of at least six feet apart
  • Washing hands for 20 seconds
  • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you


Availability and eligibility

Do I need to have insurance to get the vaccine?

No, the vaccine is available to all Californians regardless of their insurance coverage. 

You may be asked about your coverage when you schedule an appointment or at your appointment. This is only so the hospital or clinic knows whether to charge the Federal government or your health plan.

No one can refuse you a COVID-19 vaccine because you do not have coverage. 

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen or California resident to get the vaccine?

No. The vaccine is available to all Californians regardless of their immigration status. You do not need to share your status with anyone to get the vaccine.

The Biden administration has stated that:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not be at vaccination sites
  • Public health employees cannot block undocumented people from getting the vaccine

If you have concerns about sharing personal information, speak to allies in your community or reach out to one of these community organizations..

Learn more about help for immigrants.

When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine when large amounts are available. Because of limited early supplies, the state created phases for priority access:

Phase 1: Includes those at high risk for getting COVID-19, and when the vaccine supply is limited. 

Phase 2: Targets more high-risk groups not included in Phase 1, as more vaccines become available. 

Phase 3: The state estimates that the general public can get the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 15. Note: This will depend on how soon vaccines are produced and other vaccines become available.

The state says it will provide a COVID-19 vaccine to everyone in California who wants it.

For full details, see the state site on phased rollout and access.

Who is eligible now for vaccines?

Groups currently eligible are people with a high chance of exposure, high-risk for those with severe illness, and those 65 and older. By April 15, all Californians age 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

This may vary by county and provider due to continued limited supply. Check My Turn for eligibility and appointments in your area. Learn more.

Phase 1A, as defined by the California Department of Public Health, includes:

  • Healthcare workers at risk through their work in any role in direct health care or long-term care settings such as:
    • Skilled nursing facilities
    • Assisted living facilities
    • Similar places for older or medically vulnerable people
  • Long-term care residents in the places listed above
  • Alternative Medical Practitioners including massage therapists
  • Those in the full list of Health Care/Public Health essential workers

Phase 1B includes:

  • People who are 65 years or older
  • Those at risk of exposure at work in the following sectors:
    • Education and childcare
    • Emergency services, which includes utility workers, disaster service workers, and social workers
    • Food and agriculture
    • Janitors

You can read details about the essential worker categories. You can also view the updated Vaccine Eligibility Guidelines for additional details.

On March 15, Phase 1B expanded to include:

1. People ages 16-64 if they have medical conditions that put them at high risk. These include:

  • Cancer, current with weakened immune system 
  • Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
  • Chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), oxygen dependent
  • Down syndrome
  • Solid organ transplant leading to a weakened immune system 
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension)
  • Severe obesity (Body Mass Index of 40 kg/m2 or greater)
  • Type 2 diabetes with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5%

2. People aged 16 – 64 with severe disabilities or illnesses, if: 

  • Individual is likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection,
  • Getting COVID-19 will limit the person’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival, or
  • Offering adequate and timely COVID care will be difficult because of their disability.

3. People who live or work in a crowded (congregate) residential setting, such as:

  • Incarceration/detention facility
  • Homeless shelter
  • Behavioral health facility
  • All people experiencing homelessness

4. People who work in transportation and logistics, such as:

  • Public transit workers
  • Airport workers
  • Commercial airline employees (not private airplanes)

On April 1, eligibility expands to include individuals 50-64 years old.

On April 15, all Californians age 16 and older will also become eligible. 

For full details on these groups, see the state site or CDPH. This list is subject to change. Note that priority groups may vary in other states. 

You can check My Turn or your county or local site to see which phases are getting vaccines in your area. 

Are there certain groups that should not get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Children under 16 years old (until vaccines are approved for this age group), people who feel sick, and people with certain allergies should not get the vaccine.

At this time, children under 16 years, should not get the vaccine. All vaccines are currently authorized for use in adults (18 and older). Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in teens 16 and 17 years old. Clinical trials are currently ongoing for children, and they will be included if the vaccines are shown to be safe and effective. 

Vaccine Minimum age
Pfizer 16
Moderna 18
Johnson & Johnson 18

According to the CDC, you should talk with a doctor first before getting a COVID-19 vaccine if you:

  • Have a moderate to severe illness or are feeling sick, in which case, you should likely wait to get vaccinated
  • Have severe allergies not related to vaccines or injections, or carry an epinephrine (Epi-Pen, Auvi-Q, etc.) injector. For example, if you have:
    • A family history of severe allergic reactions
    • A history of allergies to oral medications
    • Milder allergy to vaccines
  • Have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injections

If you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or an immediate allergic reaction (within 4 hours of receiving vaccine) – even if not severe –  to any ingredients in any of the COVID-19 vaccines in the past, you should discuss with your doctor if you should get a different approved vaccine.  For example:

  • If you are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG), you should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). Ask your doctor if you can get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • If you are allergic to polysorbate, you should not get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Ask your doctor if you can get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

See Pfizer's fact sheet and ingredients
See Moderna's fact sheet and ingredients
See Johnson & Johnson's fact sheet and ingredients

If you have a severe or an immediate allergic reaction – even if not severe – after the first dose, you should not get the second dose of the same vaccine.

Your doctor can discuss your options with you. You may still be able to get a vaccine, depending on your specific case.   

Learn more about vaccine considerations for people with underlying medical conditions

Can pregnant or breastfeeding women be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yes. Pregnant women have a higher risk for complications from COVID-19. There are no study results available yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. However, experts believe that the vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the woman or the fetus. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should talk with a doctor about your risk of COVID-19 and how you might benefit from the vaccine. Read these FAQs from the state if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do I get to choose which vaccine I get?

It depends. Vaccine supplies will be distributed based on how the provider can store the vaccine. Supply is still limited, so you may not be able to choose. At some sites, only one type of vaccine may be available. 

You can check with your healthcare provider to learn which vaccine they are using when the time comes. But don’t delay your vaccine if you’re eligible, just to wait for one specific type if it’s not medically necessary. 

It’s safer to get vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available when it’s your turn. All options provide protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. 

Can I get vaccinated outside of the state?

California residents

Yes. During the public health emergency, members who reside in California may get vaccinated in other states.

Residents in other states

Members who reside in other states may receive vaccines in their state. Please check your state, county, or local public health resources for details. You can also check the CDC for information about where to get a vaccine in each state.

Find out where you can get a vaccine.

I’ve already had COVID-19. Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. At this time, we do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.


Getting a vaccine: what to expect

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

All COVID-19 vaccines are free. You do not have to pay any money to get the vaccine. 

COVID-19 vaccines will be provided at no out-of-pocket costs to members and all Californians, whether insured or not. Vaccines are paid for by the U.S. government. 

Vaccination providers will be able to charge administration fees for giving the shot. These will be paid for by Blue Shield of California, Blue Shield Promise, or the government.

How can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

At this time, you must fall into one of the phases or groups that are eligible to get vaccinated. Please note, availability is currently limited. It varies from county to county.

If you are eligible, schedule an appointment at My Turn or see our list of Where to get a vaccine for more resources.

How can I find out if I'm eligible?

To find out if you’re eligible, you have a few options:

  • Register online at If eligible, you can schedule an appointment. If not yet eligible, you can sign up to be notified. The state is updating this site regularly with new providers, locations, and appointments. People who don’t have internet or a mobile phone can call (833) 422-4255 for help. Learn more
  • Check your county’s website for updates on local plans and vaccination sites in your area.
  • Check with your healthcare provider. Providers are notifying their patients when they are eligible to schedule appointments.
  • Check with retail pharmacies, which may be able to tell you if you’re eligible based on their supply. 

How can I make an appointment?

Because of limited supply, you will need to make an appointment to get vaccinated. You have the options below or you can visit our Where to get a vaccine page. This has info on additional locations and websites to help you find a vaccination site and schedule an appointment. 

My Turn

Throughout the spring, as vaccine supply increases, you will be able to schedule an appointment through California’s My Turn in two ways:

  • Online at My Turn website is accessible to people with disabilities and in eight languages: English, Spanish, simplified and traditional Chinese, Arabic, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean. A mobile phone is required for verification purposes.
  • Calling the COVID-19 state hotline at (833) 422-4255 or 833-4CA-4ALL.  The hotline is accessible to people with disabilities and offers services in English and Spanish, with connections to interpretive services in more than 250 languages.

If you have high-risk medical condition or disability:

  • You will need to confirm that you have a condition to schedule an available appointment or to register for notice of future appointments.
  • You will be able to request accommodations that may be needed, like special hours or extra time at your vaccine site through My Turn.

Learn more about My Turn.

Your healthcare provider

You may have already been contacted by your primary doctor to schedule a vaccine appointment if you have high-risk medical condition or disability. If you believe you are eligible for the vaccine and haven’t been contacted, you should reach out to your provider. We recommend you try to get the vaccine through your primary doctor first if you have high-risk medical condition or disability.

Local pharmacies

Your local pharmacies may have vaccines and appointments available. Please note that during March, school and childcare staff have priority for pharmacy vaccines. See a list of pharmacies in California.

Your county or local health department’s website

These will continue to have information about how, when, and where to get a vaccine in your area.

Community pop-up clinics

Pop-up clinics rolled out in mid-March in for people with high-risk medical conditions and disabilities. Many of these will be in specific areas throughout the state that can reach the most affected. Community partners will be contacting eligible people directly.

Don’t forget to schedule your second dose, if needed.

If you get a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you will need to get a second dose. Note: Johnson & Johnson vaccines only need one appointment for a single shot.

Timeframes for second-dose vaccines will be based on which vaccine is available at the provider:

  • 21-day window for Pfizer
  • 28-day window for Moderna

What should I expect at the appointment?

You will need to check in and may be asked for a form of identification to match the name on the appointment. This may include an employee badge to prove you work for an eligible employer. 

Be prepared for a short wait on site after.

When you get vaccinated, you will need to wait for 15-30 minutes after getting the shot. This is so the healthcare team can see if you have an allergic reaction to it.

If you have an underlying medical condition or allergies, please notify the on-site staff so that they can observe you for at least 30 minutes. 

Ask for your vaccination card or printout afterward.

This will tell you:

  • What COVID-19 vaccine you received
  • The date you received it
  • Where you received it

Tip: Take a picture of this card or printout so you have a copy in case you lose it.

The CDC has info on what to expect at your appointment.

Will I need to verify I have a high-risk medical condition or disability when I go to my appointment?

To protect confidentiality, verification documentation of the diagnosis or type of disability is not required but instead, anyone meeting the eligibility requirements will be asked to sign a self-attestation that they meet the criteria for high-risk medical conditions or disabilities. 

Will vaccine sites be accessible?

All vaccine clinics in California are required to ensure sites and services are accessible in accordance with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements.

How do I get a vaccine at home if I’m unable to travel to a vaccine site?

For current options, check with your healthcare provider first. You can also check with your local health department or local pharmacy.

I need help getting to the vaccine site. What resources are available to me?

If you have a Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plan or Blue Shield Promise Medi-Cal or Cal MediConnect plan, you may have access to transportation benefits. Refer to your Evidence of Coverage for benefit information or call Customer Care at the number on your member ID card.

This includes roundtrip transportation to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Transportation services are provided by Call the Car. Call the Car is available 24/7. You should try to schedule your ride 24 hours in advance.

To schedule a pick up, contact Call the Car at:

  • Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plans: Call (855) 200-7544 (TTY:711)
  • Blue Shield Promise Medi-Cal and Cal MediConnect plans: Call (877) 433-2178 (TTY: 711)

For other options or if you have a different plan other than those noted above, check with your healthcare provider, local health department, or local pharmacy.

Can Blue Shield help me schedule a vaccine appointment? 

We recommend that you call the COVID-19 state hotline at (833) 422-4255 or 833-4CA-4ALL or use My Turn for help with scheduling an appointment. 

The hotline is accessible to people with disabilities and offers services in English and Spanish, with connections to interpretive services in more than 250 languages.

How do I help my senior or disabled family member get an appointment?

You can sign up or schedule an appointment on their behalf on My Turn. You can use the same email address to assist your family members and friends. 

Additionally, you can call and speak to their healthcare provider or a pharmacy to schedule an appointment on their behalf.

What should I do if I feel like I'm having symptoms prior to my appointment?

If you feel like you may have COVID-19 symptoms prior to your appointment, you should postpone it. Reschedule it when you have recovered from your illness and have met the criteria for ending isolation. 

If you have COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms, you should also wait until you meet the criteria before getting the vaccine. 

This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine.

The CDC recommends:

  • If you tested positive, had only mild symptoms, and were not treated for the coronavirus, you should wait at least 10 days after the start of COVID-19 symptoms and satisfy criteria to discontinue isolation before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Wait 90 days to get the vaccine if you recovered from a COVID-19 infection and were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma.

What if I miss my appointment for the second dose? Does timing matter?

You should get your second dose as close to the three to four week waiting period as possible. This will help ensure you get the best protection possible. 

Can I mix vaccines? For example, if I get the Pfizer vaccine for my first dose, can I get the Moderna vaccine for the second dose? 

No, this is not recommended. It’s better that you get the first and second doses from the same manufacturer. To ensure this happens, it’s best to go back to the location where you got your first vaccine if you can.

If you must go to a different location, the California Immunization Registry allows providers to check which vaccine you received for your first dose if needed.

If I get a vaccine at one location, do I have to go back to the same location?

It is preferred that you return to the same provider that gave your first dose. However, this may not always be possible. For example, long-term care residents may have received their first vaccine in the facility but then get discharged. In this case, they can go to another location that provides the same type of vaccine they first received. The type of vaccine you received is listed in your Medical Record or on the immunization card given to you after the first shot.

Also, the California Immunization Registry allows providers to check which vaccine you received for your first dose. This can help ensure you receive the same vaccine for your second dose. 

You may also receive a reminder card for your follow-up dose. Keep this card handy as it should also include the type of vaccine you received. You can also take a photo of this card so you have it in case you lose the card. 


After the vaccine: What to expect

What should I expect after getting the vaccine?

Chances are you will have some side effects after getting the vaccine. These are normal signs that your body is building protection. Side effects are normal with any vaccine. They should go away in a few days.

According to the CDC, common side effects on the arm where you got the shot include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Common side effects throughout the rest of your body include:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated. These may include ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines.

It is not recommended you take these medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects. 

To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot, the CDC recommends you:

  • Apply a clear, cool, wet washcloth over the area
  • Use or exercise your arm

In addition, to reduce discomfort from fever, if you have one, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.

When should I call a doctor?

In most cases, discomfort from pain or fever is a normal sign that your body is building protection. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours, or
  • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. 

See the CDC's handout for details about what to expect after getting the vaccine. 

What should I do if I think I’m having an allergic reaction?

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination provider site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.

An allergic reaction is considered severe when a person needs to be treated with epinephrine or EpiPen© or if they must go to the hospital.

An immediate allergic reaction means a reaction within 4 hours of getting vaccinated, including symptoms such as:

  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Wheezing (respiratory distress)

If the allergic reaction – severe or not – was after an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna), you should not get a second shot of either of these vaccines. Ask your doctor about your options.

Visit the CDC’s site to learn more about allergic reactions after a vaccine

Learn about getting a different type of vaccine after an allergic reaction.

It’s been several days or weeks since I got the vaccine. Why do I now have a rash where I got the shot?

The CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash where they got the shot. 

These rashes can start a few days to more than a week after the first shot and are sometimes quite large. They are also known as “COVID arm.” 

If you experience “COVID arm” after getting the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you should still get the second shot at the recommended interval.

Tell your vaccination provider that you experienced a rash or “COVID arm” after the first shot. They may recommend that you get the second shot in the opposite arm.

If the rash is itchy, you can take an antihistamine. If it is painful, you can take a pain medication like acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen.

What do I need to do if I’m vaccinated, but have COVID-19 symptoms?

In the rare instance that you catch the virus after getting the vaccine, and are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact your doctor. They may recommend you get a COVID-19 test.  

If you have COVID-19, you should continue to follow current guidance to protect yourself and others.

See guidance from the CDC for if you are sick
See guidance from the CDC for when you can be around others after recovery

I’m vaccinated but have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. What should I do?

Vaccinated people who have been exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria, according to the CDC:

  • Are fully vaccinated, meaning:
    • Two weeks or more since getting the second dose in a two-dose series.
    • Two weeks or more since getting one dose of a single-dose vaccine.
  • Are within three months of getting the last dose in the series, and
  • Have had no symptoms since the exposure.

People who do not meet all three of the above criteria should quarantine and follow current quarantine guidance.

Fully vaccinated people who do not need to quarantine should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure.

When can I consider myself fully vaccinated?

After any vaccination, it takes time for your body to build protection. People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines
  • Two weeks after the single-dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

You should keep using all the tools available to protect yourself and others until you are fully vaccinated.

What are the key things I should know after being fully vaccinated? 

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness, and death.

However, we’re still learning:

  • How long the protection from the vaccines last.
  • How effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus. Early data shows the vaccines may work well against some variants but could be less effective against others.
  • How well the vaccines keep people from spreading COVID-19.

Until we know more about all of these things, everyone — even people who’ve had their vaccines — should continue taking basic prevention steps to prevent the spread to others. These include:

  • Staying home and isolating when you’re sick 
  • Wearing masks
  • Washing hands often
  • Practicing social distancing
  • Minimizing mixing with other households

What am I allowed to do after I’m fully vaccinated?

If you’ve been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, you can start to do some of the things that had to stop because of the pandemic:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks. But this only applies if none of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. For example, visiting with relatives who all live together.
  • 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.

Please note: If you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Will I still need to wear a mask after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, in certain situations. Experts still need to learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions.

This means, for now, you should continue to wear a mask and socially distance when you’re: 

Also, it takes about one to two weeks after the second dose for the vaccine to be fully effective. 

When fully vaccinated, do I still need to be extra cautious? 

Even if you’re fully vaccinated:

  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

Learn about other FAQs about the COVID-19 vaccine from the CDC.


Vaccination support from community groups

You can find more useful info online through these groups:

National Medical Association: The National Medical Association (NMA) is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. 

National Hispanic Medical Association: Established in 1994 in Washington, DC, the National Hispanic Medical Association is a nonprofit association. It represents the interests of 50,000 licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States.

California Department of Aging: The California Department of Aging runs programs that serve:

  • Older adults
  • Adults with disabilities
  • Family caregivers
  • Residents in long-term care facilities

Last updated: 4/2/2021

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