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Photo-collage illustration shows two vials of COVID-19 vaccines leading to a larger third vial which is surrounded by question marks
(Illustration by Alborz Kamalizad. Photo by Ian Hutchinson/Unsplash)
Health
Here’s How To Get A COVID Vaccine Booster In Southern California
We've gathered what you need to know about eligibility, timing, and access.
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You got your COVID-19 shot(s) — and you will probably need another one.

If you’re “moderately to severely” immunocompromised and got either Pfizer or Moderna as your first two doses, it’s pretty straightforward: the CDC says you should get a third dose of your Pfizer or Moderna vaccine a month after your second dose.

If you're not immunocompromised you can now receive either of the two mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) as long as it's been at least six months since your second dose. Federal health officials also say people 50 and over should get a booster or any adult in a long-term care setting like a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The CDC also cleared boosters of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in October for all adults who received the single-dose shot.

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We know it’s a lot to keep track of, so we’ll keep updating this guide with what you need to know about getting a booster or third dose here in Southern California.

Here’s what we know so far.

(If you still have a lingering question after reading through this guide, ask us below. And remember – COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters and third doses, are free and available to everyone, regardless of immigration status or if you have health insurance).

What’s A Booster?

If you’re not immunocompromised, an additional COVID-19 vaccine shot is considered a booster.

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As for the makeup of the booster shots:

  • The booster for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is a smaller dose than the other two doses in the series (0.25 mL versus 0.5 mL). 
  • The Pfizer booster is the same size as the first two shots in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine series. 
  • The Johnson & Johnson booster is also the same volume – 0.5 mL –  as the first dose. 

What’s A Third Dose?

If you are immunocompromised, we’ll call your third shot a third dose.

Third doses for immunocompromised people who got Pfizer or Moderna initially are available now. (We'll also share more about how to get one in a second.)

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The third dose of the Pfizer of Moderna vaccines are exactly the same shot you got the first two times. The dosage and ingredients are unchanged.

“Third doses are meant to elicit an antibody response where there has been an inadequate antibody response before,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health director Barbara Ferrer explained. “While booster doses are meant to increase antibody levels that have waned, after a robust increase in the months after vaccination.

Can I Get A Booster?

Yes. If you are an adult who got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine initially, you are eligible for a booster once two months pass after your shot, according to the CDC recommendations (more about that in a second). There are no restrictions on the Pfizer or Moderna boosters, which are available to any adult who was vaccinated more than 6 months ago with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or two months since the J&J vaccine.

The CDC recommends that people in these categories get boosters:

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  • If you’re 50 years old or older or you’re an adult who lives in a long term care facility the CDC says you should get a single booster shot at least six months after your second dose.
  • If you’re an adult (so 18+) with an “underlying medical condition” that puts you at a higher risk of “severe COVID-19” — conditions such as cancer, a heart condition, lung disease, kidney disease, dementia, diabetes, Down syndrome, liver disease, obesity, certain blood disorders such as Sickle cell, or if you’re pregnant, have had a stroke, are a smoker or have a substance disorder (more examples and details here.)
  • If you’re an adult  (18+) who works in a “high risk” setting, like healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, food, agriculture, and grocery store workers, among others
  • If you’re an adult (18+) who lives in a “high risk” setting – like a correctional facility, homeless shelter or nursing home (again, among others.

“Individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received and others may prefer to get a different booster,” the CDC explained in a press release on Oct. 21.  “CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.”

I Got Johnson & Johnson. Can I Get A Booster?

Yes. The FDA officially expanded the emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to include a booster dose.

And the CDC recommends that adults who were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months (or longer) ago get a booster.

You can get a second shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – or your booster could be a Pfizer or Moderna shot instead.

Adults who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine initially who “may receive a single booster dose of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (half dose) or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine at least two months after receiving their Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine primary vaccination,” the FDA explained in a press release. 

We’ll update this section as officials share more specifics.

I’m Immunocompromised. Can I Get A Third Dose?

Yes. If you have certain conditions that make you "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and you got Pfizer or Moderna as your first two doses, you can get a third dose now.

That's because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended the emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to allow for "an additional dose" for certain immunocompromised people who may need them, including "solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise."

Which means if you have one of the following conditions, then the CDC considers you “moderately to severely immunocompromised” and recommends you get a third dose:

  • "Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood"
  • "Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system"
  • "Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system"
  • "Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)"
  • "Advanced or untreated HIV infection"
  • "Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response"

An additional dose is recommended if you have one of these conditions because you’re more at risk for serious illness if you get COVID-19.

"Studies have shown these people may not have sufficient immunity to head off the more serious complications of COVID-19 after the standard vaccine regimen,” NPR reported.

But before you rush to a vaccine site, talk to your doctor.

Your health care provider will be the most familiar with your personal health situation, and whether it would be appropriate for you to get your third dose, given the treatments you’re likely undergoing.

Be sure to ask them about the timing, and when would be best for you to get the additional shot.

Can I Mix-And-Match Vaccines While Getting A Booster?

You can. So, for instance, if you got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine initially, you have a choice: you can receive one one Johnson & Johnson booster, one Moderna booster, or one Pfizer booster.

As NPR reported: 

“A study of the mix-and-match approach found no safety concerns using different vaccines as a boost. The boosts with a mixed vaccine combination were at least as good in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines, the study found, and in some cases the mixed approach appeared much better.”

When Should I Get My Booster?

This depends on which shot(s) you’ve already gotten.

If you are an adult who got Pfizer or Moderna the CDC recommends you wait six months after your second shot before getting your booster.

If you got Johnson & Johnson, the CDC recommends you wait two months after your initial J&J shot before getting a booster.

A person wearing purple gloves fills a needle with a COVID-19 vaccine dose.
A pharmacist at UCI HEalth Center preps the COVID-19 vaccine.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

When Should I Get My Third Dose?

Again, this depends on which shot you got first.

If you got Pfizer initially and are immunocompromised, the CDC recommends waiting at least four weeks (28 days) after your second dose before getting your third dose.

If you got Moderna and are immunocompromised, the CDC recommends waiting at least four weeks (28 days) after your second dose before getting your third dose.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health emphasizes you should consult your healthcare provider about the specific timing of the third dose if you are immunocompromised.

“Ask about the best timing based on your current treatment plan,” the county’s vaccine portal reads. “This is especially important if you are about to start or restart immunosuppressive treatment.”

    What Should I Bring With Me To Get My Booster Or Third Dose? 

    Since you’ve already gotten your first and second doses, you’re probably familiar with the vaccination routine.

    • Be sure to bring your CDC Vaccine Card showing what you got for your prior dose(s) and when you got them. Note: Bring the actual card. They will write on it again.
    • If you have health insurance, your health insurance card (though COVID-19 vaccines are free regardless of insurance status)
    • A photo ID may be required to prove your age like the one you brought to your previous vaccination.

    Some vaccine sites will also require you to self-attest that you are eligible for your third dose.

    A slide instructing people to go to My Turn dot C A dot gov to make an appointment to get a COVID-19 booster shot.
    Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)

    12-17 Year Olds

    For now, minors are not eligible for booster doses.

    But if you're a minor and immunocompromised, you need to get the Pfizer vaccine as your third dose because it’s the only one authorized for your age group. According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, minors should bring:

    • Your CDC Vaccine Card showing your prior Pfizer doses
    • A responsible adult with an ID and a signed consent form from your parent or legal guardian (more on that below.)
    • If you have health insurance, bring your health insurance card (though COVID-19 vaccines are free regardless of insurance status.)
    • Proof that you are 12 or older, such as a birth certificate, medical documents or school ID.
    • "16 and 17-year-olds should be accompanied by their parent or legal guardian if possible." If that’s not possible you need to bring a consent form signed by your parent or legal guardian.
    • "12 through 15-year-olds must be accompanied by their parent, legal guardian, or a responsible adult. If you bring a responsible adult, the consent form must name the responsible person and be signed by the parent or legal guardian," according to LACDPH.
    • A Public Health signed consent form, which is available in English, Spanish, and additional languages on the county vaccine portal.

    Consent forms are also available at the vaccination site.
    Minors who are not immunocompromised are not currently eligible for a booster dose, as you have to be an adult to receive a booster of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines under the CDC’s recommendations.

    We’ve reached out to the California Department of Public Health to find out if immunocompromised children and teens can self attest that their medical condition qualifies them for a third dose. We’ll update when we have more information. Getting a shot through your health care provider may be easiest since they have access to your medical history.

    A person in a white lab coat and blue gloves holds a small vial.
    A pharmacist at UCI Health holds a dose of the COVID-91 Vaccine.
    (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

    Do I Still Need To Take Any Precautions — Like Wearing A Mask — After My Third Shot?

    Yes, we're still in a pandemic. The coronavirus vaccines are very powerful but don't provide 100% protection. Even a third dose “may still not provide full immunity to COVID-19 in people who are immunocompromised,” according to the FDA’s emergency use authorization fact sheets for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

    So, the L.A. County Department of Public Health recommends that you keep taking precautions, which means even after a third dose or booster, you should:

    • Avoid crowds and locations with poor ventilation or airflow
    • Try to stay six feet away from people
    • Wear a mask
    • Consider double masking (surgical mask + cloth mask) or wearing a N95
    • Ask the people around you to get vaccinated too

    What Are The Side Effects Of A Booster or Third Shot? 

    According to the CDC, “long term side effects are unlikely.” Short-term side effects that people report after getting a booster or third shot are similar to side effects after the first (and second) COVID-19 vaccine doses.

    The most common side effects after a booster shot are fatigue and pain at the injection site. The CDC reports most side effects were “mild to moderate,” though – as with the first (and second) doses – “serious side effects are rare, but may occur.”

    “Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected,” the agency explains.

    How Do I Get My Booster Or Third Shot?

    Here are some of the big vaccine distributors below — including local health departments — to give you an idea of how they’re handling boosters and third doses. But note: it’s not an exhaustive list of places to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

    MyTurn

    The state’s vaccine appointment portal MyTurn has been updated to let you book appointments or find walk-in clinics for booster shots, in addition to third doses.

    You can also call the state's COVID-19 hotline to make a vaccine appointment over the phone. The number is 833-422-4255.

    If you cannot physically get to a vaccine location due to your health condition or mobility challenges, you do also have the option of requesting an “in-home visit” through MyTurn. Just indicate that you need one while filling out the form, and someone should call you to follow up.

    L.A. County Department of Public Health

    Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson boosters are available now in L.A. County. The county vaccine booking portal is VaccinateLACounty.com.

    “Don’t delay your booster,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer at one of her weekly press briefings. “There is some evidence to suggest that while the vaccines are super powerful, there is some waning of protection. And for people at higher risk for serious illness, this would be the time to go ahead and get your booster. There is no scarcity.”

    Immunocompromised people will need to bring or fill out a self-attestation form to show that you are immunocompromised and that is why you are seeking a third dose. The form is also available in Spanish and 10 other languages on the county’s vaccine portal — click on “Doses for Immunocompromised” on the left hand side.

    If you are homebound and need an in-home vaccination, you can call the county Vaccine Call Center at 833-540-0473 between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. You can also fill out an online request form, which is available in English and Spanish, and twelve other languages on the county’s vaccine portal (just click on “In-home vaccination” on the left side).

    Long Beach Health and Human Services

    The city is offering boosters at city-run vaccine sites, as well as "booster clinics."

    To get a booster you will have to bring your vaccine card proving you got your first two Pfizer or Moderna doses at least six months ago.

    If you’re immunocompromised, you won’t need to bring a doctor’s note, but you will need to fill out a form that will be available at any of the Long Beach vaccination sites. It asks questions about your health history, including if you’ve had an allergic reaction to any ingredients in the vaccine and if you’ve had COVID-19 in the past as well as your race and ethnicity.

    If you have mobility issues you can request a mobile vaccination visit here.

    For help finding or booking an appointment, you can call (562) 570-4636.

    Pasadena Public Health Department

    To receive a booster at a Pasadena Public Health Department-run site, you must make an appointment through MyTurn. You will be asked for proof that your first two Pfizer or Moderna doses were at least six months ago, or J&J two months ago. The website also lists local pharmacies with walk up options.

    To get a third dose, you can print and fill out the Pasadena form to self-attest that you are immunocompromised or get one at any of the city’s vaccine sites including walk ups and mobile clinics.

    If you are homebound, you can call the Pasadena Citizen Service Center at 626-744-7311, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. at 4 p.m. to request in-home vaccination.

    Orange County Health Care Agency

    You can book an appointment through Othena, the county’s vaccine appointment booking portal.

    Third doses are available for immunocompromised people, who will need to self-attest that they are eligible at the vaccination site.

    If you are homebound, you can request an at home vaccination also through Othena.

    Riverside County Public Health

    You can book an appointment for a booster through MyTurn, which has the option of requesting a homebound vaccination.

    Sites run by the county department of public health are also administering third doses to moderately to severely immunocompromised people, though you will not be asked for a note from a doctor or medical records proving your condition.

    San Bernardino County

    The county has set up a separate page dedicated to third doses and boosters.

    If you are seeking a third dose because you are immunocompromised, the county will accept a self-attestation that you meet the requirements (linked here in English and here in Spanish) at its vaccination sites.

    Ventura County

    If you are seeking a booster you can make an appointment or show up to a walk-in site. Remember to bring your vaccine card or a digital record of your first doses.

    If you are getting a third dose because you meet the immunocompromised criteria, you can go to any of the county-run vaccination sites. Just tell the staff working at your vaccination clinic that you are immunocompromised. You will not be asked for any proof, a county spokesperson confirmed.

    “The focus remains on vaccinating those at greatest risk for getting infected, being hospitalized and dying from COVID: those that have not been fully vaccinated,” Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas said in a press release. 

    Kaiser Permanente

    If you call and make an appointment or walk into a Kaiser Permanente vaccine clinic in search of a third dose, the staff will ask you if you are immunocompromised or if your health care providers have told you you’re immunocompromised. You won’t have to bring a form — but they’ll take it if you do.

    If you are immunocompromised, you can get your third dose at a Kaiser Permanente site, even if you are not a member.

    If you are seeking a booster, you must make an appointment in order to receive one at a Kaiser Permanente vaccine site.

    Pharmacies

    Here are some of the big pharmacy chains — and how they're handling third doses — in alphabetical order.

    Albertsons Companies, including Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions, among others

    You can walk-in or make an appointment.

    You won’t be asked to provide “a prescription or sign off” to prove you are immunocompromised, but you will be expected to bring your CDC vaccine card showing your previous shots.

    If you don’t have your card, the pharmacist will look up your record in the state vaccination registry, according to a company spokesperson. You can walk in or make an appointment.

    CVS

    The chain says you are "strongly encouraged" to book your Pfizer or Moderna booster or third dose appointment ahead of time. You will be asked the date and manufacturer of your previous dose(s), according to a company press release.

    Ralphs

    You can book an appointment for a booster shot online.

    Rite Aid

    You can schedule an appointment online for a booster or third dose. You will be asked to confirm your eligibility for a third dose before you are able to schedule an appointment.

    Walgreens

    If you are getting a third dose, you will be asked about your eligibility twice: when booking the appointment online or over the phone, and again when you are about to receive the third shot.

    Walmart and Sam’s Club

    Whether you are immunocompromised and need a third dose, or want a booster, you can either book an appointment ahead of time or walk-in.

    How Do I Update My Digital Vaccine Card To Show My Booster or Third Dose?

    Your digital vaccine record will not automatically update to show you your booster or third dose. Instead, according to the California Department of Public Health, you will actually have to request a new digital vaccine card for the additional shot to show up.

    The department suggests waiting two weeks (14 days) after your booster or third dose before making this request, to give the system time to update.

    If your vaccine record still isn’t showing your booster or third dose, CDPH says to reach out for help through the MyTurn Virtual Assistant

    What Else Do You Want To Know About Boosters And Third Doses?

    Is there something about the third doses or boosters that you want to understand better?

    Is there something you want to tell us about?

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

    Fill out the form below, which will notify one of our journalists. We may reach out to you to learn more about what you tell us, but we won’t share anything publicly without your permission.

    What questions do you have about vaccines?

    With additional reporting by Julia Paskin and Phoenix Tso

    Updated November 19, 2021 at 3:16 PM PST
    This story has been updated with additional information about the Pfizer booster.
    Updated October 25, 2021 at 12:28 PM PDT
    This story has been updated with additional information about Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters. It has also been updated with more details about how to book a booster appointment.
    Updated September 24, 2021 at 4:58 PM PDT
    This story has been updated with additional information about the Pfizer booster, including the FDA's emergency use authorization and the CDC's recommendations of who should get one. It has also been updated with more details about how to book a booster appointment.
    Updated September 2, 2021 at 4:38 PM PDT
    This story updates with information about the number of additional doses administered in L.A. County and Rite Aid's requirements to receive one.
    Updated September 1, 2021 at 12:44 PM PDT
    This story updates with additional details from the CDC, information about how pharmacies are handling third doses and a CDC video explaining how to get a shot.
    Updated August 24, 2021 at 4:32 PM PDT
    This story updates with additional information about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and details about how Orange and Riverside counties, as well as Kaiser Permanente will handle third shots.

    This story originally published Aug. 20, 2021.