You're About To Be Eligible For A COVID-19 Vaccine in California. Now What?
If you've been watching the vaccine rollout from the sidelines, waiting patiently for your turn, it's your time to step on to the field.
- On April 1, all Californians 50 and older became eligible for a free COVID-19 vaccine.
- On April 15, all Californians 16 and older will also be allowed to book appointments for shots.
So it's time to make a plan, and we're here to help with a checklist of things to consider, links to guides and resources, and action items every step of the way.
Bookmark this page and reference it when you need. Send it to your friends and family. You can even print it out and check off each of the steps as you complete them.
And if you're still not sure about something, let us know. We've answered hundreds of vaccine queries from readers so far. Yours could be next.
BEFORE BOOKING AN APPOINTMENT
You're going to want to understand the process and your options (and it's OK if you don't already). Start with our FAQ guide. Whether you're new to this news or just need a refresher, it'll help get you up to speed on the supply, the science, the guidance, and what you need to do.
And for help speaking to your family and friends about the vaccines, we also have this —
If your questions are specifically related to your personal health conditions or medical history, please speak with your doctor.
HOW TO GET AN APPOINTMENT
There are now many places to book your appointment for a free vaccine. But where should you go? That depends on where you live, and in some cases, where you want to get your shot.
To start, see if you can get a shot through your medical provider, or try the state's online appointment booking system, MyTurn. For more details and ALLLLL the other options (with direct links and phone numbers), we have this comprehensive guide —
Don't be discouraged if you can't get an appointment immediately. Refresh, and if possible, keep trying at different times of the day.
Space will be competitive. There will be a lot of eligible people looking for appointments, and limited spots.
Take Los Angeles County, for example. Public health officials estimate that 1.4 million Angelenos between 50 and 64 years old have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine.
But it's hard to know exactly how many doses will be available for them. Officials say — if you add up all the different ways a dose ends up here — around 550,000 to 600,000 doses arrived in the county the last week in March.
And remember that some of those have to be set aside as second doses for people who got their first ones a few weeks ago.
So keep trying.
We asked a volunteer vaccine navigator for advice on securing an appointment. Some of her tips include:
☐ If you can, check the different sites throughout the day. Big batches of appointments can get released late at night, in the middle of the workday, or anywhere in-between. And sometimes, people cancel.
☐ If you live in one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19, check with your local elected officials or trusted community organizations. They may know of mobile clinics in your neighborhood.
TRANSPORTATION TO YOUR APPOINTMENT
How you get to your appointment may dictate where you go. Some sites are drive-thru only. Some sites are walk-up. And some sites are intentionally close to public transit, like the mass vaccination site at Cal State LA, (which is changing hands from FEMA to City of L.A. and no longer in danger of closing).
Below is a list of options for that last category. Here are some ways to get vaccinated if you don't have easy access to a car:
► Call 833-540-0473 to reach the L.A. County Department of Public Health. They can help you figure out your options for getting to or from a vaccination site.
► Try to make your appointment at a location that will let you get dropped off, like one of the L.A.County Mega POD sites: Pomona Fairplex, L.A. County Office of Education, The Forum, Cal State Northridge, and Magic Mountain. These venues have "designated drop-off and pick-up locations for individuals arriving on rideshare, taxis, medical transport or are dropped off by family and friends," according to a spokesperson for Supervisor Hilda Solis.
► Look specifically for vaccination sites located near public transportation. L.A. County is hoping to expand its public transit options to vaccine sites
► Uber has two deals in place for free or discounted rides in L.A.
▷ Deal 1: is a city-based deal for vaccinations at USC. You'll be contacted and offered a ride code if you live in an eligible area (based on need and proximity), according to the mayor's office. This arrangement is a collaboration between Uber, the City of Los Angeles and the Mayor's Fund.
▷ Deal 2: is county-based deal to distribute ride codes or vouchers. Uber is working with the L.A County Department of Public Health, the Board of Supervisors, and community organizations to accomplish that. We're looking into how you get one of these codes if you need one, and will share what we learn.
► Some insurance plans include non-emergency medical transportation. Check with your provider if this is something you can use to get you to a vaccine site.
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WHAT TO BRING TO YOUR APPOINTMENT
☐ Your mask. You'll need to wear one at the vaccination site.
☐ Proof you're eligible to be vaccinated, including:
☐ A form of ID that has your name and photo on it (does not have to be government issued)
☐ Proof that you live (and/or work, depending on the county) where you want to get vaccinated
☐ Proof of your age
► These do not have to be three separate documents. For example, if you have a driver's license with you, that would show your photo and name, age, and where you live, all in one.
► These do not have to be government issued documents. For example, to prove you live in LA County, sites should accept a copy of a lease or utility bill. And to prove your age, the county said it would accept medical records that indicate your date of birth. You can see the full list of acceptable documents here.
☐ Clothing that'll give your vaccinator access to your upper arm. Short sleeve shirts or loose fitting clothing might be best here. Long sleeves or tightly fitted clothing might be too difficult to roll up.
☐ Fluids. Drink a lot of water. You will want to stay very well hydrated.
WHAT TO ASK ONCE YOU'RE THERE
☐ How will I get my second dose? If you receive a Pfizer or Moderna shot, you will need a second shot in 21 days (Pfizer) or 28 days later (Moderna). Be sure to confirm with your vaccinator how you can secure a second dose appointment in the recommended window.
► If you run into trouble getting that second shot, we have a guide for that too: How To Get The Second Dose Of Vaccine — And Everything You Need To Know About It.
► If you get a Johnson & Johnson (also called Janssen) shot, that is a single-shot vaccine, so no need to worry about a second dose for now.
☐ Can I have my vaccine card? Make sure you get (and keep) the white vaccine card with your name, the type of vaccine you got, and the date for your second dose, if you got Pfizer or Moderna. Put this somewhere safe. Do. Not. Lose. It.
AFTER YOUR APPOINTMENT(S)
Don't be alarmed if you experience mild side effects, like pain or swelling in your arm or tiredness, pain, or fever in the rest of your body. If your symptoms are severe - like an allergic reaction - call 911 immediately. If other side effects linger more than a few days, call your doctor.
To help manage the more mild side effects, the CDC recommends:
☐ Moving or even exercising the arm where you got your shot
☐ Applying a clean, cool, wet washcloth on your arm
☐ Staying hydrated. Fluids, fluids, fluids.
Even after you get a shot, you still need to be careful around other people and follow distancing and mask rules.
If you receive a Pfizer or Moderna shot, you are considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks after your second shot.
If you receive Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), you are considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks after your first (and only) shot
The CDC (and L.A. County) has guidance on what you can do once you're fully vaccinated, and what precautions you still need to take:
- You can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without masks or physical distancing.
- You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks and physical distancing —unless any of those people (or anyone they live with) has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- You do not need to quarantine or get tested following a known exposure COVID-19 unless you have symptoms.
- 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.
- Continue mask-wearing and physical distancing in public.
- Continue mask-wearing and physical distancing when visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households.
- Still avoid medium and large gatherings.
- Still get tested if you experience COVID-19 symptoms.
- Still follow guidance issued by individual employers.
- Still delay domestic and international travel and follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
The CDC also says you should avoid getting other types of vaccines — including flu or shingles vaccines — within two weeks of your COVID-19 shot(s).
WHAT NOT TO DO BEFORE YOUR SHOT
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prep and plan —
1. Don't Take Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
- If possible, skip over-the-counter pain relievers before you get the vaccine. Yale University researchers say the process that blocks pain may also reduce your body's ability to create antibodies. If you typically take over-the-counter pain medication, talk to your doctor.
- Acetaminophen and ibuprofen should be OK to take after your appointment, according to a UC Irvine study.
2. Don't Schedule Other Vaccines Within Two Weeks
- The CDC recommendation is to allow at least two weeks before receiving other vaccines (for example: flu or shingles).
- The timeframe may be shorter in unplanned situations where the benefits outweigh "potential unknown risks of vaccine coadministration" (for example: tetanus for wound management, hepatitis A during an outbreak).
3. Don't Get Dermal Fillers Around The Same Time
- The CDC doesn't specifically say to avoid these, but has advised that "infrequently, people who have received dermal fillers might experience swelling at or near the site of filler injection (usually face or lips)."
- You can still get vaccinated if you have a history of dermal fillers, provided there are "no contraindications or precautions for vaccination," according to CDC guidance.
TALK TO US
How'd it go? What's working? What's not? What advice do you have for others preparing to get their shots?
If you're okay with us reaching out to ask you about your experiences to inform future stories and coverage about the vaccine, fill out this form.
And if you have a question or experience not covered in our guides or reporting, you can fill out the form below to let one of our journalists know.
We can't answer everyone right away, but we do read everything you share with us. And it informs our reporting going forward.
With contributions from Lisa Brenner and Jackie Fortiér.