How To Get The Second Dose Of Vaccine -- And Everything You Need To Know About It

Updated Apr 2, 2021 2:33 PM |
Published Jan 28, 2021

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WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY EMILY GUERIN & LAIST STAFF

Securing the first dose of the coveted COVID-19 vaccine is no small feat, but that's not where the journey ends -- one dose is not enough protection.

There are currently two versions of the vaccine being distributed in the greater Los Angeles area -- and both of them require two doses.

For Pfizer's vaccine the doses should be given three weeks apart (21 days).

For Moderna's vaccine the doses should be given four weeks apart (28 days).

But getting that second dose has not been straightforward, and we've been receiving a lot of messages like this:


"There are no appointments available -- how do I book my second dose?"

"I am getting anxious."

"If you have any information, please pass it on."

"It is so confusing right now."

We hear you and we're here to help. Things are changing rapidly, so we put together this guide, and will keep it updated with the most current, accurate information.

For the purposes of this guide, we're going to assume you had your first dose already. If that's not the case, go to this guide and figure out how and when to do that.

Here's what we know so far about how the second doses, including what's supposed to be happening, and what you've told us is actually happening.

WHEN DO I NEED TO GET MY SECOND DOSE?

If your first dose was the Pfizer vaccine: three weeks later (21 days).

If your first dose was the Moderna vaccine: four weeks later (28 days).

But there is a little wiggle room.

You have up to six weeks (42 days), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Jan. 21, the CDC's guidance was updated:

"The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if it is not feasible ... vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose."

CAN I MIX VACCINES?

"Every effort should be made" to complete the series with the same product, according to the CDC. That means both shots should be Pfizer, or both shots should be Moderna.

However, "in exceptional situations" -- like not knowing which vaccine you got, or a lack of availability -- you can get the other vaccine "at a minimum interval of 28 days between doses."

A brief, mismatched vaccine scheduling snafu happened in L.A. County on or around Feb. 9.

Some of you alerted us that you'd received the first shot of Moderna at an L.A. County-run site but got a follow up notification for a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

L.A. Public Health director Barbara Ferrer told reporters on Feb. 10 that the notifications were a mistake, and people should've received a correction message shortly afterward.

Again, do not mix vaccines unless there is no other option.

WHAT ABOUT THE SINGLE DOSE VACCINE?

The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was authorized for use in the U.S. on Saturday, Feb. 27.

That authorization came just a few weeks after the company announced its Emergency Use Authorization application to the FDA.

J&J says its vaccine, in addition to being just one dose, can be stored for "at least three months" in most standard refrigerators.

L.A. County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer previously said she is "hopeful" the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be a good option for people experiencing homelessness, or who would otherwise face challenges returning for a second dose.

On the day the authorization was announced, Gov. Newsom tweeted that 380,000 doses should be heading to California ASAP. Los Angeles County health officials have said they believe about a quarter of those doses would be earmarked for L.A. County, the state's most populous.

The New York Times has a vaccine guide from a professor of public health that explores the different options and offers this advice:

"When there are multiple shots of varying effectiveness, take whatever is available to you first."

HOW DO I PREPARE FOR MY APPOINTMENT
FOR THE SECOND DOSE?

You'll probably need to gather a few things, like:

Your ID
The white vaccine record card you received when you got your first dose (in L.A. County, an electronic vaccine card works too)

Bring those with you.

And definitely check with your vaccine location in case they require any additional documentation.

If you live in a long term care facility in L.A. County, public health officials say you can bring a "second dose referral letter" with your photo ID.

There's been some conflicting information about whether or not you should take over-the-counter pain medication before receiving the shot.

L.A. Public Health says not to do it:

"Over-the counter medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) can help with pain, fever, headache or discomfort. Do not take these medicines before getting the vaccine."

WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE SECOND DOSE?

Common possible side effects of the second shot include:

Sore or red arm
Fever
Chills
Aches
Feeling tired

L.A. Public Health emphasized that these milder reactions are both normal and common, and for most people, should go away after two days.

"Your body is learning to build up immunity," the department explained in a Feb. 4 email. "Having these types of side effects soon after vaccination does NOT mean that you have COVID-19."

Severe reactions - like not being able to breathe - are unlikely. But if that does happen, call 911 or immediately head to an emergency room.

WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER I GET THE SHOT?

L.A. County recommends:

Drinking fluids
Using -- or exercising -- the arm that got the shot
Wetting a washcloth with cool water and applying it to your arm
Taking medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you experience common symptoms
Call your doctor if side effect symptoms linger longer than two days

If you already got your second dose and have tips to share, let us know!

HOW DO I GET AN APPOINTMENT FOR MY SECOND DOSE?

Step one is to figure out who runs the location where you got the first one.

The procedures differ somewhat from there.

Many sites in Southern California that are run by county and city public health departments are notifying people about second doses in roughly the same way: they're contacting people when a second dose is available, and scheduling an appointment at that time.

In other places, your second dose appointment should be automatically booked. And for others still, you may have to book it yourself.

There are also different processes for private locations like health care providers, clinics, pharmacies and grocery stores that are offering vaccines and have their own policies.

Below are the rules for the different vaccination locations.

I GOT MY FIRST SHOT IN LA COUNTY... BUT WHERE EXACTLY?

In L.A., it's complicated.


Did you get your first dose of the vaccine here?

Dodger Stadium
Hansen Dam
Crenshaw Clinic on W 79th Street
San Fernando Clinic on Park Avenue
Lincoln Park Clinic on Valley Boulevard
University of Southern California (starting March 9)

You were vaccinated at a site run by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department. Follow the guidance below for CITY OF LOS ANGELES sites.


Did you get the first dose here?

Pasadena
Long Beach

These cities have their own public health departments. Follow the guidance below for PASADENA or LONG BEACH.


Or did you get your first shot here?

Pomona Fairplex
California State University Northridge
The Forum
Magic Mountain
Los Angeles County Office of Education (in Downey)

You got the vaccine at a "mega pod" -- short for "points of dispensing." These are run by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Follow the guidance below for SITES RUN BY LA COUNTY below.

The county also operates two smaller vaccination clinics at:

Balboa Sports Complex in Encino
El Sereno Recreation Center

Follow the guidance below for SITES RUN BY LA COUNTY below.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY LA COUNTY

You are "guaranteed" a second dose, county officials say.

Your appointment will likely be at the same place where you received your first dose, but possibly at a different county-run site (for example, if your initial vaccination site has since closed).

Many people left their first dose appointment with a white vaccination card, and a date to return for a second dose -- but not a specific time.

The county has started to send out emails confirming second dose appointments, Public Health chief science officer Paul Simon said on Jan. 29.

Once contacted, if you need to change the time or date of your second dose appointment, there should be an email address listed where you can request to make a change.

"Residents will need to confirm the time that works for them when they get the registration link... and then they'll be all set," Ferrer said.

BUT please don't share that link.

People have been forwarding their second dose booking links to people not who are currently ineligible for the first one, according to public health officials. And it's creating (additional) chaos.

"These actions are taking away vaccination access from high risk people who are eligible for the vaccine right now," Simon explained on Feb. 5. "When we identify these appointments, they are being cancelled."

So don't do that.

To clarify: You should get an email.

If you don't, first check your spam folder in case it ended up there.

Then, if you still haven't received an email by the time your second dose is due, go to the location where you got your first shot.

According to the county's "second dose" website:

"Go to the location where you got your first dose at the same time as your first appointment... Remember to bring your white vaccine record card or electronic vaccine record AND a photo ID."

But don't show up early. Wait until you get that email -- or for the 21st or 28th day. The county has emphasized this point.

But, as we've seen in this rollout, just because something should be working a certain way doesn't mean it is working that way. And that's the situation for some people who were not notified about their second dose appointments and should have been allowed to just show up. If you follow the guidance above but are told "no" at the vaccine site, here's what you can do. This advice comes directly from the head of L.A. Public Health, Barbara Ferrer:

Ask to speak with a site manager. Every county POD should have one.

Show them your vaccine card (either the physical one or the digital one).

Show them your photo ID.

They should be "honoring those forms of verification for those second dose appointments," Ferrer told reporters on Feb. 10.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of people - volunteers, different crews - on different days at all of our sites," Ferrer said, "so I apologize if anybody felt like you weren't able to easily get seen when you in fact have the verifications."

Ferrer previously said that the county's goal is for everyone to return for that second dose 21 or 28 days later, but acknowledged that second shots may be delayed if the county gets fewer doses than anticipated.

"If there was some crisis and we were getting even less doses than we're getting now, that might create a problem," Ferrer said on Jan. 25.

Currently, the county is prioritizing second doses over giving out new, first-time vaccinations.

Going forward, the county is allowing you to book both your first and second doses at the same time.

NOTE: You can't get the second dose at a county-run vaccination site if your first dose came from a non-county provider.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT AN LA COUNTY SITE -- BUT
IT'S CLOSED NOW

If you got your first dose at Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, you'll get your second dose at Balboa Sports Complex.

If you got your first shot at the Hazard Recreation Center, you'll get your second one at El Sereno Recreation Center.

Ferrer announced this plan to reporters on Jan. 27.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A CITY OF LOS ANGELES SITE

What happens next varies depending on when you got the first shot.


The first set of instructions is for people who:

Got the first dose between Dec. 30 and Jan. 9 at either

Lincoln Park

Crenshaw Christian Center

Hansen Dam

San Fernando Park

Did not receive a text or email by Feb. 1 about their second dose

There's a chance the city does not have your contact information "due to software limitations." According to a city spokesperson, this scenario applies to a small fraction of people who were vaccinated during that period (about 2,800 individuals).

If you are one of them, you will NOT be notified to book an appointment, but you can still get your second dose, if you follow the instructions below.

Here's how, according to a city spokesperson:

If you think this situation might apply to you, you can call Carbon Health's COVID-19 vaccine call center at (213) 634-3059. You can also send an email to vaccine-la-support@carbonhealth.com.


The below process is for everyone else, going forward.

You are supposed to be automatically booked for a second dose. It should work like this:

You should receive a text and email.
They should arrive 3-7 days before your dose is due.
You should have an option to reschedule (if needed).
You will be notified by phone if you signed up by phone.

Mayor Eric Garcetti laid out the current process for reporters on Jan. 28.

You should receive a message about this, with an option to reschedule, if necessary. The notification might not arrive immediately, though.

This is not how it always worked: Carbon Health just recently took over the City of LA's vaccine appointment system.

If you received your first dose under the old system, someone from Carbon Health should be reaching out to schedule your second dose (this is the way it's supposed to be working, but we are hearing that's not the case for many of you).

Carbon Health has an FAQ and a live chat feature on their website. You can also email support@carbonhealth.com if you need more assistance.

If you received your first dose elsewhere (like at a county-run run or private vaccine clinic), it's unclear whether you can get your second dose only at a city site. We are working to clarify.

Given the limited supply of vaccines, the city is currently prioritizing second dose appointments.

"Due to supply uncertainty and site closures due to weather and holidays, appointments may be scheduled further out, but within the CDC recommended window of 28 to 42 days," Carbon Health explained on its support page.


Go to section WHAT IF THE VACCINE SITE IS CLOSED ON THE DAY OF MY APPOINTMENT? for what to do if your site has been temporarily shut down due to supply issues.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY PASADENA

You should have been handed a white card with a date to return for a second dose.

But, this is not an appointment.

The city's public health department will notify you via email when a second dose is available, and at that point you can schedule an appointment by clicking the sign-up link in the email.

If you don't get a follow-up email, you can call 626-744-6000.

Pasadena guarantees everyone will receive a second dose, but may delay some second dose appointments if it doesn't receive enough vaccine, city spokesperson Lisa Derderian told us on Jan. 20.

In that case, the city will email or call you to reschedule.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY LONG BEACH

Everyone who received a first dose from the city is guaranteed a second shot, but it may be delayed due to supply issues,

The city's health department will reach out to schedule with you by email or via the phone number you gave when you made your first appointment.

The City of Long Beach is prioritizing second doses in February and has asked the state for enough vaccine supply to complete the series for everyone there who's due for shot two.

City spokesperson Chelsey Magallon urged people not to contact the city proactively, but to wait to be notified.

There is a hotline/email, but it is for general questions about the vaccine. The city said not to use it for booking or checking the status of a second dose appointment.

► Long Beach Vaccine Hotline
▷ Call: 562-570-4636, option 6
▷ Email: covid19vaccine@longbeach.gov

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY ORANGE COUNTY

If you received your first dose through the Othena system, you should receive an automatic notification of a second dose appointment.

If you received your first dose at a fire service site your info should have been transferred to the Othena system. You should receive a notification about your second dose appointment.

It's unclear exactly when people will be notified. The O.C. Health Care Agency was vague when asked, telling us it would happen "within the appropriate second dose time frame."

If you do not receive a notification about your second dose by the time it is due, you can:

Call the HCA hotline at 714-834-2000 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., any day)

Email support@compositeapps.net

OC Health is also warning people to lookout for scams.

Go to section WHAT IF THE VACCINE SITE IS CLOSED ON THE DAY OF MY APPOINTMENT? for what to do if your site has been temporarily shut down due to supply issues or weather.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY RIVERSIDE COUNTY

You should get an email about your second dose.

The email should contain "an invitation" to book a second dose appointment at a specific clinic, according to Dr. Geoffrey Leung of the Riverside County Health System.

But that email might not come immediately - or even by the date listed on your white vaccination record card.

"A little bit of the second dose notifications may be behind the schedule that people were anticipating," public information officer John Welsh said on Feb. 16. "But you will be getting that notification, just please be patient with us."

If you got your first dose before Jan. 22, Leung said you should've gotten your email already. If not, you can email public health representatives at rivco.vaccines@ruhealth.org.

Experts urge you not to try go get your second shot early by altering the date on your vaccine card.

Riverside County Health Officer Cameron Kaiser tweeted "Getting vaccinated too soon could impact the reliability of the vaccine."

So don't do that.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

Anyone who received the first shot at a county-run site is guaranteed a second shot, according to county spokesperson David Wert.

But how you get that second dose appointment depends on when you got your first dose.

If you got your first shot before Feb. 1, you should have gotten a white vaccination card marked with the earliest date you can receive your second dose.

But this is not an appointment.

It is on you to find an appointment when your second dose is due. The county has set up a dedicated page for booking second dose appointments.

If you got your first shot on or after Feb. 1, you should've been able to schedule your second dose appointment when you made your first dose appointment.

If you are a resident of San Bernardino County and you need help scheduling vaccine appointments at county-run sites, you can call the hotline at (909) 387-3911 or email coronavirus@DPH.sbcounty.gov.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY VENTURA COUNTY

Ventura County officials say you should get a reminder email a week before your second dose, and that you should be able to book your second dose appointment through that email.

If that doesn't work for you, you have two other options:

You can call (805) 477-7161.

You can sign up via a form on the Ventura County Recovers website.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT KAISER PERMANENTE

At your first dose appointment, you should have been given a time and date to come back for your second dose.

Everyone is guaranteed a second dose, according to spokesperson Terry Kanakri.

Those eligible for the first dose of the vaccine should have received a text, email, letter or phone call from Kaiser.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A SITE RUN BY CURATIVE

A Curative spokesperson told us that you are guaranteed a second dose if you got your first one at the vaccination site for essential workers at El Camino College.

You are supposed to get an email to "sign up for and secure" a second dose appointment. That email should arrive "within 3 days of your second dose," according to the county's second dose website.

If it does not arrive within three days of the second dose date on your white vaccination card, Curative says you can email support@curative.com.

We've gotten a lot of questions about Curative and have asked representatives for more details. We'll update as soon as we can.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A ST. JOHN'S CLINIC

You should be scheduled for your second dose appointment when you come in for your first shot. You should also be getting two emails and a phone call to remind you about it, according to a spokesperson.

If this is not the way it happened for you, you should still be able to get the second shot. The system spokesperson told us that on the day of your second dose (it's written on your white vaccination card) you should just go back to the same site where you got your first dose. Important: bring your vaccination card with you.

St. John's is guaranteeing second dose appointments within the recommended window.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT KEDREN COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER

You are guaranteed a second dose from Kedren if you got your first one there, chief medical officer Dr. Kelly Jones confirmed in an email.

The community health center is not automatically scheduling those second dose appointments. Instead, you need to make that appointment yourself.

"Our supply is limited and future doses are not guaranteed, the no-show rate for appointments is high, and we don't have sufficient staff for making appointments," Jones explained. "If an individual can make an appointment on the shared website, that is the best way to assure their dose."

Jones recognizes finding and securing a second dose appointment can be difficult.

"For this reason, we added multiple on-site personnel for registration so that anyone who received their first dose at our site can come for the second dose without an appointment," Jones said.

Remember to bring your white vaccination card.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE THROUGH THE
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)

If you receive health care through the VA, the agency will contact you when you're eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. You do not need to contact the agency.

You must get your second dose of the vaccine at the same VA facility where you got the first dose.

However, if you are able to get an appointment for a first dose outside a VA facility, you are encouraged to do so. Just make sure you tell your VA health care provider.

We have asked for more details about the second dose scheduling process, and will update when we get more information.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT A CVS

When you make your appointment for your first dose, you should be able to book your second dose appointment too, according to a CVS spokesperson.

That second dose "is scheduled within the appropriate timeframe, allowing enough time for a potential reschedule of the appointment, if needed."

You can book those appointments on the CVS website, in the CVS app, or by calling CVS Customer Service at 1-800-746-7287.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT ALBERTSONS/VONS

People who receive a first dose should be automatically scheduled for a second dose at that time, a spokesperson told LAist.

The spokesperson provided LAist a sample appointment email.

At the bottom, it reads:

"When the first appointment is completed, use the Scheduling Control button below to schedule your second dose appointment. If there is no availability listed for the second dose, the clinic may not be accepting appointment[s] yet. Please check back later for availability."

Albertsons, which also owns the supermarket chain Vons, says people can book their initial vaccine appointment at a grocery store through L.A. County's vaccine scheduling website.

I GOT MY FIRST DOSE AT RALPHS

According to L.A. Public Health's second dose website:

If you got your first shot on or after Jan. 28, a pharmacist should help you schedule a second dose while you're waiting in the recovery area.

You can also schedule a second dose on the chain's website.

If you got your first shot before Jan. 27, Ralphs should email or call you about your second dose

However, we are hearing from readers that it's not working this way for everyone.

A spokesperson told us on Feb. 10 that someone from the Ralphs Pharmacy team should reach out to you with a second dose appointment "as we get closer to the timeframe for when the second dose should be administered (usually around 4 weeks)."

Ralphs guarantees second doses to anyone who got their first shot through the grocery store, according to a spokesperson.

WHAT IF THE VACCINE SITE IS CLOSED ON THE DAY OF MY APPOINTMENT?

Some sites - like those run by the City of LA and Orange County's Disneyland POD - have had to close temporarily at times, due to a lack of vaccine supply

In mid-February, severe winter weather across the country delayed some planes carrying thousands of doses of the Moderna vaccine to Southern California.

If you had an appointment for a second dose at one of the City of Los Angeles' six vaccination sites for Feb. 19 or Feb. 20, you should be automatically rescheduled for another date/time when there's more vaccine supply.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said you'll get notified about that new appointment via email, text, or phone call.

If you were one of the 15,000 people who had an appointment for a second shot at Orange County's Disneyland megapod through Feb. 22, the county says it will "tentatively" reschedule your appointment and share the details with you through Othena.

I CAN'T GET MY SECOND DOSE WHERE I GOT MY FIRST ONE

We've received a lot of messages and questions about this issue. Maybe your original center is now closed. Or it's really far away and difficult to get to again. Or you moved in the window between shots. Or in some cases, there just isn't availability at the first location when it's time to complete your series.

There are still options.

Below is what vaccine providers told us about booking appointments specifically for your second dose.

Note -- Regardless of where you go, make sure you stick with the same brand of vaccine. They are "not interchangeable." Also, if you have any chance of going back to the location where you started your vaccine series, please try that first. If that's not possible, try these:

City of Los Angeles

You can book a second dose at a City of Los Angeles site - but you must have proof of your first dose (like your white vaccination card), according to the Carbon Health booking system website. We're reached out to Carbon Health for more details about who is eligible for a second dose appointment at their sites.

CVS

The appointment system should allow you to just book a second dose if that's all you need, according to a spokesperson.

Kaiser Permanente

You can book a second dose appointment "regardless of where first ones were obtained," according to a spokesperson. Kaiser Permanente offers appointments to both members and non-members.

Ralphs

There is an option to book a second dose only, but availability depends on supply, a spokesperson told us.

St. John's Well Child and Family Center

Vaccine sites "are providing 2nd dose[s] for people regardless of where they got their first dose," a spokesperson told us.

Walgreens

If you got your first dose at a Walgreens, you can schedule your second dose at a different Walgreens location, as long as appointments are available and supply allows, according to a spokesperson.

We have reached out to more vaccine providers and will keep updating this list as we learn more.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT TO KNOW? ASK US QUESTIONS

Is there something about vaccines you want to understand better?

Is there something you want to tell us about?

Did you already get your second dose and have a completely different experience than what we described here?

Fill out the form below.

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