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A 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)
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 after a few months you'll need another one, and depending on your age and health, a second booster after that.

Federal health authorities recommend that most people aged 12 and older receive a booster shot five months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series (depending on which one you got) or two months after their initial Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

And yes, that includes teenagers.

Though if you’re “moderately to severely” immunocompromised and got either Pfizer or Moderna as your first two doses the CDC says you should get that additional Pfizer or Moderna shot even sooner — a month after your second dose. (You’ll also need a booster on top of that – more about that in a second)

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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?

A booster is an additional COVID-19 vaccine shot you get after you complete the primary series. (For Pfizer and Moderna recipients who aren’t immunocompromised, the primary series is your first two shots; for Johnson & Johnson, it’s that first shot. If you are immunocompromised, there’s more to the primary series – we’ll get to that in a second)

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 An "Additional Dose" Or Third Dose?

If you are immunocompromised, you will need what’s sometimes called “an additional dose” or “additional primary shot.” (For Pfizer and Moderna recipients, that additional dose would be considered your “third dose.")

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

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“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, though the timing and which booster shot you are able to get will depend on a couple things.

If you are 12 or older and got the Pfizer vaccine for your first two shots, you are eligible for your Pfizer booster five months after your second shot. Minors can’t get Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots under the current emergency use authorizations and CDC recommendations.

Same goes for adults who got Moderna: If you are 18 or older and got the Moderna vaccine for your first two shots, you are eligible for your booster five months after your second shot.

Adults who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster two months after their J&J shot.

“Individuals [18+] 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.”

The booster timing for immunocompromised people is a little different because, before the booster, they'll need to get a third dose as part of their primary series (more about that in a second).

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.

It is recommended that your booster shot is an mRNA vaccine (so Pfizer or Moderna), though you could choose to get a second shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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. 

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 – and should – get a third dose. And you may even need a booster on top of that (more on that in a second).

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.

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.

On Jan. 3, the FDA updated its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to allow for third doses for certain immunocompromised 5-11 year olds as well, and on Jan. 4, the CDC signed off on this with its recommendation.

“Children 5 through 11 years of age who have undergone solid organ transplantation, or who have been diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise, may not respond adequately to the two-dose primary vaccination series. Thus, a third primary series dose has now been authorized for this group. This will now allow these children to receive the maximum potential benefit from vaccination,” the FDA explained in a press release announcing the update.

If I Got An “Additional Dose,” Can I Get A Booster, Too?

Yes, according to the CDC. 

“After completing the primary series, some moderately or severely immunocompromised people should get an additional primary shot,” the CDC explains. Everyone 12 years and older, including immunocompromised people, should get a booster shot. If you are eligible for an additional primary shot, you should get this dose first before you get a booster shot.”

So if you are eligible for an “additional dose” because you are immunocompromised, this is how the series could look for you:

  • You get Pfizer as your first shot.
  • 21 days later, you get your second shot.
  • 28 days after that, you get your “additional dose” (because you are immunocompromised)
  • Three months after that, you’d get your booster shot. (Initially, it was five months).

Though, again, experts emphasize you should talk to your doctor about dosage and timing, especially if your course has differed from what has been recommended.

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

You can if you are 18 or older (Minors 12 and up will need get the Pfizer booster.) 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 12 or older and received the Pfizer shots, the FDA says you can get your Pfizer booster five months after your second shot (if you’re not immunocompromised) or three months after your “additional dose” if you are immunocompromised.

If you are an adult and got the Moderna vaccine, you can get your booster five months after your second shot.

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?

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.

If you got Johnson & Johnson initially and are immunocompromised, the CDC doesn’t recommend an “additional dose” the same way they do with the mRNA vaccines – but remember, any adult who got Johnson & Johnson can get a booster dose of whichever COVID-19 vaccine they like (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson again) two months after their first Johnson & Johnson shot.

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 About A Second Booster?

On March 29, the FDA authorized second boosters for people aged 50 and older and those with certain immune deficiencies, such as solid organ transplant recipients. The CDC recommends that people in those groups who received an initial Moderna or Pfizer booster dose at least four months ago get a second booster.

The public health agency also said adults who received Johnson and Johnson as a primary vaccine and booster dose at least four months ago may now receive a second booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

"These updated recommendations acknowledge the increased risk of severe disease in certain populations including those who are elderly or over the age of 50 with multiple underlying conditions, along with the currently available data on vaccine and booster effectiveness," the FDA said in a statement.

I Got COVID-19. Does That Affect When I Should Get My Booster Or Third Dose?

You should wait “at least until recovery from the acute illness (if symptoms were present) has been achieved and criteria to discontinue isolation have been met,” according to the CDC. 

Other than that, as Dr. Shruti Gohil of UC Irvine’s School of Medicine told KPCC’s AirTalk:

“You have acute COVID now, you recover, and then a couple weeks later you get your booster. There’s no problem. There’s no hard and fast rule that you can’t get vaccinated in the setting of recent COVID.”

Though if you received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of your treatment, the CDC guidance says you should wait to get any COVID-19 vaccines until 90 days have passed.

    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.
    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

    The FDA expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer booster, which is the only coronavirus vaccine for children on Dec. 6 to include 16 and 17 year olds, and on Jan. 3 to include 12-15 year olds. The CDC on Jan. 6 officially recommended boosters for this age group.

    Which means as long as you’re 12 or older and at least five months have passed since you got the second shot, you’re eligible for a booster.

    If you're a minor and immunocompromised, you need to get the Pfizer vaccine as your third dose (a month after your second) 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 usually available at the vaccination site.

    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 when you got your first two Pfizer or Moderna doses.

    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 five or 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

    You can get your COVID-19 vaccine, third dose, or booster at a Kaiser Permanente site, even if you are not a member.

    You can schedule your appointment online or by calling 1-833-KP4CARE.

    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.

    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 January 3, 2022 at 9:51 AM PST
    This story has been updated to reflect the FDA's changes to the emergency use authorization for Pfizer and its boosters.
    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.