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:
- 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.
- Although the state has opened eligibility for all Californians 12 years and older supply and available appointments will vary by provider and county.
- You will need to continue with preventive measures before and after getting vaccinated, but you may be able to do more things once you’re fully vaccinated.
Table of contents
- About the vaccines
- Availability and eligibility
- Getting a vaccine: what to expect
- After the vaccine: what to expect
About the vaccines
The following COVID-19 vaccines have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- 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.
I heard there’s a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Why is that?
On April 23, the CDC and FDA recommended lifting the pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. After studying the data, both agencies concluded that the potential benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the low risk of blood clots in people 18 years and older. The FDA has created an updated Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers that have been revised to include information about the risks of blood clots which has occurred in a very small number of people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Both agencies and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will continue to monitor any new information.
The reason for the pause was so that the CDC could send an official health alert to all vaccine providers so that:
- Providers are able to give an early diagnosis and proper treatment, if needed.
- It’s ensured that cases of adverse events are reported by public health officials through established systems (VSafe and VAERS).
- They can share signs and symptoms to watch for after getting the vaccine with the public.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup supports the lifting of the temporary pause and has informed the governors of California, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada.
It’s important to note that because of the systems put into place to monitor adverse events for the COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC and FDA were able to quickly identify the adverse events, as well as any patterns linked to them. That means that the systems put in place are working to help ensure safety for all Americans. It also means that clinicians, public health departments, and the public will continue to get timely and transparent updates.
What are cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (TTS), and why is there a concern?
TTS is a very rare type of blood clot that also involves an immune reaction. Platelets (thrombocytes) normally clump together to help with blood clotting. With TTS that clumping is abnormally greater and can lead to both forming blood clots when not needed and to using up the platelets. Due to the low platelets, the usual blood thinners (like heparin) used to treat clots become dangerous and can lead to excessive bleeding.
CVST is a rare and severe type of blood clot in the brain. When it is caused by TTS, it can be even worse and harder to treat. Immediate medical attention is needed for both TTS and CVST.
There is also a greater risk of getting blood clots from COVID-19 infections. And CVST also happens without COVID-19 or vaccines. Both the FDA and CDC have concluded that overall, the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 outweigh the rare risk of blood clots associated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
The CDC, FDA, ACIP, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup considered many possible actions related to the concern about blood clots. All support ongoing use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as a safe and effective tool in combating severe illnesses from COVID-19. Additionally, the FDA has created a fact sheet to inform caregivers and recipients about the risks associated with receiving this particular vaccine. The FDA recommends that individuals who have questions or concerns about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine discuss these with their healthcare provider so that they can choose the right vaccine for them.
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:
- 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:
- Extremely rare deaths from COVID-19, and
- Dramatically reduced hospitalizations from COVID-19.
|Vaccine||Efficacy from clinical trials||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.
Each vaccine was tested in different places around the world.
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.
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, a common cold type of virus that has been modified so it cannot cause disease to carry genetic material into cells that then leads to the cell making antibodies to fight infection.
This means this particular vaccine can be distributed to more people more quickly. In turn, this may help us get to herd immunity faster.
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 and get 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 genetic material placed inside the viral vector to create the spike proteins that then lead to making antibodies. As with the other vaccines, there are buffers and other ingredients to help make the solution stable.
These vaccines do not contain:
- Preservatives, or
You can find a full list of the ingredients for all the authorized COVID-19 vaccines at the CDC’s website:
- Information about the Pfizer vaccines
- Information about the Moderna vaccine
- Information about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
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 risks are far less than getting sick from COVID-19.
Getting the vaccine will help protect you and your loved ones from 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 on 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:
- 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.
If you received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the past three weeks, please also watch for these rare blood clot symptoms. These include:
severe or constant headache or blurred vision,
persistent abdominal pain,
leg pain or swelling,
shortness of breath, and
easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.
If you develop any of the above symptoms after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, contact your healthcare provider right away.
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 the 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 a 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?
As of May 13, California has opened up eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to everyone 12 years and older who wants it.
Although eligibility is now open, supply may still vary by provider.
Please note that every state sets its own criteria for which groups are currently eligible to get vaccinated. There may be some places outside of California where eligibility has been paused or delayed for certain groups.
Are there certain groups that should not get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. There are certain groups that should not get any of these vaccines. These inlcude children 11 years and younger. People who are sick should wait until they are well to get vaccinated.
Also, there are some people that should avoid specific vaccines due to allergies and specific medication conditions.
If you are sick or had COVID-19
If you have a moderate to severe illness or are feeling sick, you should likely wait to get vaccinated.
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 since the start of COVID-19 symptoms and satisfy the 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.
The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use with children 12 years and older and appointments are now available Only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in children between the ages of 12 and 17. At this time, children 11 years and younger should not get the vaccine. All other vaccines are currently authorized for use in adults (18 and older). Clinical trials are currently ongoing for children 11 years and younger. They will be included if the vaccines are shown to be safe and effective.
|Johnson & Johnson||18|
According to the CDC, you should talk with a doctor first before getting a COVID-19 vaccine if you:
- 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, or milder allergy to vaccines.
- Have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injections.
- 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.
- 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.
Specific medical conditions
Learn more about vaccine considerations for people with underlying medical conditions, such as people who:
- Have a weakened immune system,
- Have an autoimmune condition,
- Have previously had Guillain-Barre syndrome, or
- Have previously had Bell's palsy.
Additionally, if you are planning to get the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, inform the vaccination provider if you have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner.
Also, if you have another vaccine scheduled, such as for the flu or shingles, you should wait at least 14 days before getting the next vaccine,
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 may still limited, so you may not be able to choose at all locations. At some sites, only one type of vaccine may be available.
You can check with your healthcare or vaccine provider to learn which vaccine they are using. But don’t delay your vaccine just to wait for one specific type if it’s not medically necessary.
All options provide protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
Can I get vaccinated outside of the state?
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?
In most cases, you will need to make an appointment to get vaccinated. However, some locations are offering drop-in/walk-up appointments, but this varies by provider and county. Check your local public health department for more details.
How can I make an appointment?
You have the options below or you can visit our Where to get a vaccine page. This page has information on additional locations and websites to help you find a vaccination site and schedule an appointment.
California’s My Turn system allows you to find a vaccine appointment in two ways:
- Online at My Turn. You can search for appointments or sign up to be notified when more appointments open up. The state is updating this site regularly with new providers, locations, and appointments. The 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. If you don’t have internet or a mobile phone that can accept text messages, you will need to call the hotline. It 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 a high-risk medical condition or disability, you will be able to request accommodations that may be needed through My Turn. These may include special hours or extra time at your vaccine site.
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 a high-risk medical condition or disability, we recommend you try to get the vaccine through your primary doctor first. Your provider may also have mass vaccination clinics available.
Your local pharmacies may have vaccines and appointments available. See a list of pharmacies in California.
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 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 people eligible to be vaccinated at their clinics 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
I had a Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointment scheduled. What should I do now?
The temporary pause was lifted on April 23. You should be able to schedule an appointment for a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine again. If you have questions about any potential adverse events, you can discuss them with your healthcare provider.
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.
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
This card can serve as proof or verification that you received the COVID-19 vaccine. 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 or work status when I go to my appointment?
No. To protect confidentiality, verification documentation of the diagnosis or type of disability is not required. Everyone 12 years and older is now eligible to get vaccinated without preference or regard to any other circumstances. Appointments for teens 12 to 15 years old are already available.
Do the vaccine providers need parental consent before giving the COVID-19 vaccine to a minor?
Yes. Vaccine providers must get consent from a parent, legal guardian, or other adult with legal custody before vaccinating a minor. But there are some exceptions:
- Emancipated minors do not need the consent of a parent or guardian to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Providers may accept written consent from a parent or legal guardian of an unaccompanied minor.
- If a provider has a written authorization for general medical care of a minor on file, a separate consent from a parent or guardian is not required. However, the provider may still request it.
If you are accompanying the minor to the vaccine appointment, you can provide your consent on-site.
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 homebound patients, check with your healthcare provider first. If your provider is unable to help you, check with your local health department or local pharmacy.
Also, the state has launched an At-Home Vaccination program. These services are expanding statewide. If you cannot leave your home to get vaccinated, you can indicate this when registering on My Turn or when calling the state’s COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255. If eligible, you will be connected with your local health jurisdiction to arrange for in-home vaccination services.
I need help getting to the vaccine site. What resources are available to me?
There are a few free transportation services available to you depending on your health plan.
For all members
The state is providing free transportation to vaccine appointments through My Turn or by calling the state’s COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255.
Transportation options include automobile transportation for patients who don’t need mobility support. Non-emergency medical transportation is available for patients who need mobility support. These include wheelchair vans, gurney transportation, and other options.
For other options or if you have a different plan other than those noted below, check with your healthcare provider, local health department, or local pharmacy.
For Medicare Advantage, Medi-Cal and Cal MediConnect members
Some Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plans, as well as Blue Shield Promise Medi-Cal and Cal MediConnect plans, 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.
If your plan comes with this benefit, it includes roundtrip transportation to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Transportation services are provided by Call the Car. Call the Car is available 24/7. It can only be used for appointment drop-off and pick-up. It cannot be used for drive-through vaccination clinics. You should try to schedule your ride 24 hours in advance.
To schedule a pickup, contact Call the Car at:
- Eligible 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)
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:
Common side effects throughout the rest of your body include:
- Muscle pain
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.
If you have experienced a side effect after COVID-19 vaccination, you can report it to:
I’ve already received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. What do I need to know?
If you received your vaccine more than 3 weeks ago and have not had any of the symptoms noted below, you do not need to worry.
If you’ve had a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the past one to three weeks, please watch for these rare blood clot symptoms. These include:
- Severe or constant headache or blurred vision,
- Persistent abdominal pain,
- Leg pain or swelling,
- Shortness of breath,
- Chest pain, or
- Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.
If you develop any of the above symptoms after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, contact your healthcare provider right away.
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.
If you got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the past three weeks and develop any of the above symptoms of a blood clot, contact your healthcare provider right away.
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 or rash all over your body,
- Swelling of your face and throat,
- Difficulty breathing,
- Fast heartbeat, and
- Dizziness and weakness.
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.
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.
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, or
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 in certain situations,
- Washing hands often,
- Practicing social distancing, and
- Minimizing mixing with other unvaccinated 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||You should|
|Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.||Take precautions, especially at large public gatherings and indoor activities around strangers, including wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing.|
|Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household who are low risk for severe COVID-19 disease 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.||Get tested and isolate if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.|
|Travel in the US without getting tested before or after travel. Some international destinations may also not require a pre-travel test.||Avoiding crowds indoors, especially when mixing with others who are not fully vaccinated.|
|Travel in the US or internationally without quarantining after travel.||Avoid being indoors, without a mask, with people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.|
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.
You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
- You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
- You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States.
- You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
- You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
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:
- In public
- Gathering indoors with unvaccinated people from more than one other household
- Visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk
Also, it takes 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.
Will I need a booster shot?
Although the CDC has not yet determined if booster shots will be necessary, both Pfizer and Moderna are developing and testing booster shots that will be ready in the case that they are. More research is needed and studies are underway.
How can I convince my family and friends to take a COVID-19 vaccine?
Talking with family and friends about the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine can be hard. You can help by listening without judgment and finding out the root of their concerns. Things that may help open the discussion include:
- Listen to questions with empathy,
- Ask open-ended questions to explore concerns,
- Ask permission to share information,
- Help them find their own reason to get vaccinated, and
- Help make their vaccination happen.
The CDC has recommendations on how to talk about COVID-19 vaccines with friends and family.