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About the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters

  • Four COVID-19 vaccines are approved or authorized in the United States. These include the primary series vaccines and boosters.
  • Vaccine recommendations are based on age, the vaccine first received, and time since last dose.
  • People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have specific recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters.
  • Mild and temporary side effects after a COVID-19 vaccine are common. However, severe allergic reactions after getting a COVID-19 vaccine are rare.

Staying current on COVID-19 vaccines, including primary series and booster doses, protects against the worst outcomes of COVID-19 for many months following vaccination. The FDA authorized the new updated COVID-19 vaccine booster after reviewing data showing the booster improved protection against currently circulating variants.

Are these vaccines safe?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and will continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Evidence from the hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines already administered in the United States, and the billions of vaccines administered globally, shows that they are safe and effective.

Learn more about vaccine safety and effective rates from the CDC.

Will I need a booster shot?

Boosters are an important part of protecting yourself from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. They are recommended for most people.

Booster doses are available in many places, including healthcare providers, clinics, and local pharmacies. Californians can visit the My Turn website, call (833) 422-4255, or visit Vaccines.gov to make an appointment or find a walk-in vaccine clinic near them.

Stay up to date on the CDC booster recommendations.

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. You may also reach out to one of these community organizations.

Learn more about help for immigrants.

Vaccination for people aged 6 months+

The CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get the COVID-19 vaccine primary series. Those aged 5 years and older should get the COVID-19 vaccine primary series and the booster dose recommended for them by the CDC, if eligible. Children aged 6 months through 17 years can receive an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) for their primary series. Completing the primary series and booster doses remains the best way to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19, including for those who are most vulnerable.

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

CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 6 months and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future, and getting boosters, if eligible. Evidence continues to build, showing that COVID-19 vaccination before and during pregnancy is safe, effective, and beneficial to both mother and baby.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding talk with a doctor about your risk of COVID-19 and how you might benefit from the vaccine.

Can I get my COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?

According to the CDC, you do not have to wait to get another vaccine, such as the flu shot. You may be allowed to get your vaccines at the same time. If you have any concerns about side effects or interactions with other vaccines, please discuss them with your doctor.

The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidance states that COVID-19 vaccines can be given during the same visit with other vaccines, including the flu vaccine, if you are eligible for the vaccines.

If you have any concerns about side effects or interactions with other vaccines, please discuss them with your doctor.

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 go to vaccines.gov 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?

According to the CDC, getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from COVID-19 infection provides added protection against COVID-19. You may consider delaying your vaccine by 3 months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, when you received a positive test.

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.

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?

You have the options below, or you can visit our Where to get a vaccine page. This page has more information on locations and websites to help you find a vaccination site and make an appointment.

My Turn
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 updates 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.
  • Call 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 can request extra support through My Turn. These may include special hours or extra time at your vaccine site.

Learn more about My Turn.

Local pharmacies
Your local pharmacies may have vaccines and appointments available. See a list of pharmacies in California.

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 written approval for general medical care of a minor on file, separate consent from a parent or guardian is not required. However, the provider may still request it.
  • The county of San Francisco allows children 12 and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine without parental consent. However, the healthcare provider giving the vaccine must first attempt to contact the child's parent or legal guardian to give them a chance to object. 

If you are taking 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 per the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements.

How do I get a vaccine at home if I can't 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 an At-Home Vaccination program. 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. If you have a Medicare Advantage, Medi-Cal, or Cal MediConnect plan, see below. You may be eligible for transportation services through your plan.

For all members

The state provides free transportation to vaccine appointments through My Turn or by calling the state’s COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255.

Transportation options include by car for patients who don’t need mobility support. Non-emergency medical transportation is available for patients who need mobility support.

Whether you need mobility support (wheelchair, gurney, etc.) or not, there are options for you:

  • Transportation by car
  • Non-emergency medical transportation for patients who need mobility support

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 available 24/7. They 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:

  • 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. It offers services in English and Spanish, with connections to interpretive services in more than 250 languages.

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

You should wait to be vaccinated until after you complete your isolation period. People who have symptoms will end isolation at a different time than people who do not have symptoms. This also applies to people who have been vaccinated but get COVID-19 before getting any additional or booster doses. Also, you may want to delay your next vaccine (primary dose or booster) by 3 months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, when you received a positive test.

People who have had a known COVID-19 exposure should not get vaccinated until their quarantine period has ended to avoid possibly exposing healthcare workers and others during the vaccination visit. This advice to wait also applies to people with a known COVID-19 exposure who have received their first dose and need additional or booster doses.

After the vaccine: What to expect

What should I expect after getting the vaccine?

  • After vaccination, you'll be monitored on-site for 15 minutes to make sure you don't have a reaction. 
  • Once vaccinated, you'll get a card that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you got, the date you got it, and where you got it. Bring your vaccination card to your second appointment (if you need two shots) as well as your booster appointments. Keep it in a safe place, as proof of vaccination may be required in certain settings. 
  • Ask your vaccination provider about getting started with v-safe, a free, smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to check how you’re doing after your COVID-19 vaccination.

If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to keep taking all precautions.

What should I do after I get vaccinated?

If you haven’t already done so, make an appointment to get your booster dose. Californians aged 5 and above are eligible for a booster. For those that received J&J, you can receive a booster two months after your first dose. If you received Pfizer or Moderna for your primary series, you can receive a booster five months after your second dose. Boosters increase a person’s immunity almost immediately.

Wear a mask with good fit and filtration when it can protect you and others. Upgrade to a better mask if you can. An N95 provides the highest level of protection from COVID-19. KN95 or KF94 masks or double masking with a cloth mask over a surgical mask also provide great protection.

Stay home if you are sick and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Learn more about testing.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Keep your distance in crowds, especially around our youngest children who are not yet vaccinated, those at risk, and those unable to get the vaccine.

Additional resources to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters

Get up to date, stay up to date at My Turn.

Find out more about California Department of Public Health Resources for COVID-19.