COVID-19 vaccine: Member information and FAQs

One of the most important tools to help stop the COVID-19 pandemic is a safe and effective vaccine.

Federal partners have been working together to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Please check this page often for up-to-date info on:

  • Vaccine distribution
  • Priority access
  • Other news

When will I be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

On December 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Pfizer for their vaccine. On December 18, they also gave EUA to Moderna for their vaccine. Other vaccines are also being reviewed. 

The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large quantities are available. But vaccine supply will be very limited at first. 

Who is on the priority list for the first limited supply?

According to the California Department of Public Health, vaccines will be initially provided to: 

  • Healthcare workers at risk of exposure through their work in any role in direct health care or long-term care settings. See list below.
  • Long-term care residents in 
    • Skilled nursing facilities
    • Assisted living facilities
    • Similar settings for older or medically vulnerable individuals

First priority healthcare workers

  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities as noted above
  • Emergency medical providers, such as paramedics, EMTs, etc.
  • Dialysis centers

Second priority healthcare workers

  • Intermediate care facilities. Such as those for developmentally disabled, elderly residents, etc.
  • Home health care and in-home services
  • Community health workers
  • Public health field staff
  • Primary and urgent care clinics

Third priority healthcare workers

Other settings and healthcare workers. These include:

  • Specialty clinics
  • Lab workers
  • Dental clinics
  • Pharmacy staff 

Vaccines will then be given to Californians who are:

  • “Critical to our daily existence”
  • At highest risk of becoming infected, severely ill, or spreading COVID-19

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

What does Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) mean? 

The FDA ensures medical products are safe and effective for us to use. Typically, approval from the FDA for a medical product can 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 approves, clears, or licenses the medicines or treatments. 

You can learn more about EUA’s 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. The group will help ensure the COVID-19 vaccine meets safety requirements. 

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

COVID-19 vaccines will be provided at no out-of-pocket costs to members. Vaccines purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. 

Vaccination providers will be able to charge administration fees for giving the shot. These will be paid for by Blue Shield of California or Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan. Those who receive the vaccine are not allowed to be charged for the vaccine or vaccine administration. 

How many COVID-19 vaccine doses are needed?

Most COVID-19 vaccines being developed in the United States need two shots. These have a waiting period between the two shots. Pfizer’s vaccine doses are 21 days apart. Moderna’s are 28 days apart. 

If you skip the second shot, you will not have the full protection that the vaccine offers. It is important to get both shots to be fully protected.

Are there side effects to the COVID-19 vaccines?

Side effects are normal with most vaccines. We will know more about side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines as more information becomes available. 

Early reports show some people have side effects such as:

  • 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.  

Before you get the vaccine, you may want to prepare to feel unwell after. However, you will have peace of mind knowing that you are protecting yourself and others from a deadly disease.

What can I do now to protect myself until more vaccines are available?

The best way to prevent getting sick from COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

  • Wear a mask
  • Washing hands often
  • Ensure physical distance from others
  • Limit contact with people outside your household

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

Yes. Experts still need to learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, per California's COVID-19 website.

This means you should continue to use all the tools available to help stop this pandemic. This includes:

  • Wearing masks
  • Washing hands often
  • Social distancing
  • Minimizing mixing with other households

Learn about other FAQs about the COVID-19 vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last updated: 12/23/2020

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Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan is an independent licensee of the Blue Shield Association. Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan is a Medicare Advantage HMO plan with a Federal Government contract in California. Enrollment in Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan depends on contract renewal.

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