About the COVID-19 Vaccine
Why should I get vaccinated?  

 The vaccine is one of the best tools available for ending the pandemic. The vaccine offers hope of sending our kids back to school, going to concerts and birthday parties, wine tasting, and enjoying normal life on the Central Coast. 

Here’s how it works: When your body is exposed to a virus, your immune system quickly gets to work fighting that infection. After the infection, your body remembers what it learned so it can protect you from getting sick again. The COVID-19 vaccine is an instruction manual for your immune system to protect you from that disease before you’ve had it. It helps your body develop germ-fighting antibodies that will recognize and fight the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. (CDC) 

How safe and effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?  

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are safe and effective. They are showing 94-95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19. In addition to receiving Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, the vaccines were separately vetted by California’s Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, who confirmed that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have met high standards for safety and efficacy.  

What is a mRNA vaccine?  Can it affect my DNA?  

Messenger RNA (mRNA) is found in all living cells. mRNA vaccines work by teaching cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside your body. This immune response tells your body to produce infection-fighting antibodies, specifically designed to protect you from a COVID-19 infection before being exposed to the virus. 

mRNA is not the same as DNA, and it cannot combine with DNA to change your genetic code. Additionally, mRNA is relatively fragile, and only lasts in your cell for about 72 hours before degrading. mRNA vaccines do not affect or interact with DNA in any way. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, where DNA is stored. For more information on mRNA vaccines, see  Understanding and Explaining mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines (CDC).  

Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?   
No, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. None of the vaccines currently in use in the United States contain the live coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine teaches your immune system how to fight off the virus, and sometimes this process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and a sign that the body is building up its protections against the virus. (CDC)  
What are the possible side effects?   

Mild side effects after you get the vaccine are normal, and a positive sign that your body is building protection against the virus.  

Common side effects include pain or swelling where you got the shot, fatigue, headache, or fever. These side effects should last no longer than a few days. To reduce pain or discomfort, you should talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

How many doses of COVID-19 vaccine are required?   
Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two shots to be effective. It typically takes a few weeks for your body to be fully protected following your final dose of vaccine. (CDC)  
Can you still get the virus even after getting vaccinated?  

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines are 94% to 95% effective, but it takes time for your body to build immunity after being vaccinated. The vaccine requires two doses for maximum protection, administered a few weeks apart. You may be exposed to the virus before your body has had enough time to build up its natural defenses with the help of the vaccine. 

It may take anywhere from one to two weeks after receiving your second dose for the full protection of the vaccine to take effect, but even then, no vaccine is 100% effective. The important thing to remember is that getting vaccinated is not an immediate cure-all and you must continue to take protective measures to protect yourself and those around you.     

What are the differences between the authorized vaccines?   

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are similar, and both are highly effective at preventing COVID-19. Both vaccines are mRNA vaccines, both require two doses, and both may cause mild side effects. 

For more information, see About the Leading Vaccines  

Which vaccine will I get?  

The Public Health Department, hospitals, and long-term care facilities expect to administer both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the weeks ahead. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that received FDA emergency-use authorization have been through a rigorous testing and review process nationally and additionally by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, and the State of California. 

Due to the limited and unpredictable supply of vaccines and the complexity involved in distributing it, we cannot provide an option for residents to choose which of these two vaccines they would like to receive. You can read more about each vaccine here: 

Should I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant?   

While pregnant people were not included in clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines, we do know they are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for those who are pregnant.  

In addition to these guidelines, we recommend that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding speak directly with their healthcare provider to make an informed decision based on their specific health situation and considerations.   

Should I get vaccinated if I have allergies?  

In most cases, yes. The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications (such as allergies to food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies) get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.

If you have had an allergic reaction to other types of vaccines, you should consult your doctor to see if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

If you have had an allergic reaction to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate, you should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Polysorbate is not an ingredient in either mRNA COVID-19 vaccine but is closely related to PEG, an ingredient in the vaccines.* (CDC – allergies

Who participated in the clinic trial?  


  • 30,000 enrolled 

  • 89 clinical sites in 32 U.S. states 

  • Racial/ethnic distribution: 

  • 63% White 

  • 20% Hispanic/Latino (>5.5k) 

  • 10% African American/Black (>4k) 

  • 4% Asian 

  • 3% All others 

  • Age distribution: 

  • 39% ages 45-64 

  • 25% ages 65+ 

  • 43,931 enrolled  

  • 150 clinical sites in 39 U.S. states 

  • Racial/ethnic distribution: 

  • 70% White 

  • 13% Hispanic/Latino (>5.5k) 

  • 10% African American/Black (>4k) 

  • 6% Asian 

  • 1% Native American 

  • Age distribution: 

  • 45% ages 56-85 

How is safety of the COVID-19 vaccines monitored in the U.S.?   

The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective based on large clinical trials with diverse participants. 

There are systems in place to monitor for adverse events and side effects of the vaccine in real-time, including: 

  • V-safe app from the CDC is a smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. V-safe uses text messaging and surveys to check in with COVID-19 vaccine recipients after vaccination, allowing researchers to continually study vaccine safety on all populations.  

  • The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national system used by the CDC and the FDA. This system collects reports from healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the public regarding any adverse events that may happen after vaccination.       

  • National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) is an acute and long-term facility monitoring system that reports to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).  

  • Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is a network of nine healthcare organizations from across the US that conduct active surveillance and research. This system is used to aid in determining if possible side effects identified in the VAERS are actually related to the vaccine. 

  • Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Project is a collaboration between seven medical research institutions and the CDC. CISA provides consultation on a case by case basis, and conducts research about vaccine safety. 

More information about how the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine is ensured can be viewed  here. 

Am I required to get the vaccine?   

No, the vaccine is not mandatory for anyone. Right now, the limited supply of vaccine is going to those who would like to take it.   

Currently Vaccinating
Who is currently eligible for vaccine?
To see who is currently eligible for vaccine, visit our When and Where page. 
How will I know when it’s my turn?
We will announce widely when vaccine is available to more residents. Learn more by visiting our Stay Informed page.   
Appointment Reservation
How can I book my first-dose appointment?   

First, check to see if you are currently eligible. Currently eligible health care workers and senior residents may book an appointment here. 

If you do not meet the current eligibility criteria, please do not sign up for an appointment. You will be turned away at the vaccination site if you are not currently eligible for vaccine.  

If you are not currently eligible for vaccine and would like to be notified when it is your turn, visit our Stay Informed page. 

How can I book my second-dose appointment?   

Please wait up to 5 weeks following your first dose for us to contact you and notify you that it's time to schedule your second-dose appointment. This notice may come as an email, text message, or phone call, depending on your preference. Once we reach out, you can schedule your second dose online. 

Because vaccine supply is limited, second dose appointments may not be available on the exact day that you are eligible for your second dose. But don't worry. Getting your second dose up to 6 weeks after your first dose is not detrimental to health in any way and will not require you to start the series over, according to the CDC 

Will I receive a confirmation that I’ve booked an appointment?  
Yes. You will receive a confirmation email within about one day of booking your appointment, and a reminder email before your appointment.   
How can I change or cancel my vaccination appointment?   
Please use the link in your appointment confirmation email to cancel or change your appointment.   
What if I can’t book an appointment right away?   
The County currently has a limited vaccine supply and appointments are booking quickly. Please be patient and continue to check back as new appointments are added each week and may be available if others cancel.   
What documentation will I need to bring to my appointment?   

To show that you are eligible for vaccine, please bring proper documentation. 

Health care and community health workers: 

  • Photo ID (such as work badge or drivers’ license) 

  • Most recent paystub showing San Luis Obispo County employer information. 

Adults age 65+: 

  • Document showing your age (drivers’ license, state ID, passport, birth certificate, etc.) 

  • Document showing that you currently live in SLO County (drivers’ license, state ID, copy of your lease, a piece of official mail you receive at a SLO County address, etc.)  

*Note: You do not need to be a United States citizen to receive the vaccine. Documentation of citizenship is not required, only documentation of employment or age and current residency in SLO County.  

I am a health care worker and I don’t have a pay stub to document my eligibility. What should I do 
  • I own my own business: You may provide other documentation such as a recent business invoice or utility bill (private financial information may be redacted) that includes your name. 
  • I am a volunteer: You may use your volunteer badge or an email from your volunteer supervisor.
  • Contract doctor or nurse. You may use your ID badge.
  • Traveling doctor or nurse. You may use your ID badge.
  • In-home supportive care (IHSS). You may use your documentation from DSS stating that you are the designated caregiver for your family member.   
Can I get transportation to my appointment?   
Ride services are available for eligible residents age 75 and older, as well as current RTA Runabout riders, who need door-to-door transportation to a vaccination site. Once you have booked your vaccine appointment, you will be given a phone number to schedule a no-cost roundtrip if you are eligible
I got my first dose of out the county-- can I get my second dose from SLO County Public Health? 
Because of very limited vaccine supply and the way vaccines are allocated by the state, we are not able to provide second doses to SLO County residents who chose to get their first dose outside SLO County. If you traveled to another county to get your first dose, you will need to return to that county for your second dose. 
I got my first dose from French Hospital or another community provider that is not SLO County Public Health. Can I get my second dose from the County? 
If you received your first dose of vaccine from another local provider, they will provider further instructions on how to get your second dose from them. We cannot offer second doses to people who did not receive their first dose from County Public Health. 
If my spouse is eligible, can I make both appointments at once via the web site? 
Each person will need to make their own appointment separately—i.e. you cannot share one appointment slot. If only one of you has an appointment upon your arrival, only the individual with the appointment will get vaccinated and the other person will have to wait until they can reserve an appointment.
Local Distribution
Who is providing vaccines in SLO County? Where can I get vaccinated when it’s my turn?   

For residents who are currently eligible, the County of San Luis Obispo is providing vaccine at three sites. Local hospitals and State facilities are vaccinating their eligible staff. Long-term care facilities and residents are receiving vaccine directly through federal pharmacy partnerships. 

Eligible residents can choose their locations when they make their first-dose appointment. See when and where you can get a vaccine.   

Additionally, vaccine is being administered to eligible senior residents and healthcare workers through some local pharmacies and Dignity Health. See other vaccine opportunities here.

The County Public Health Department is encouraging local health care providers and pharmacies to enroll to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine and administer the vaccine to patients when the patients become eligible. For more information about how to enroll, visit our Health Care Provider page.   

How will I know when it’s my turn?   
We will announce widely when vaccine is available to more residents. Learn more by visiting our Stay Informed page.  
Can I get on waiting list?   
No, there is not a waiting list to receive the vaccine and there is no need to sign up for one. If you would like to be notified when it is available to more residents in different groups, visit our Stay Informed page.  
How is vaccine priority being decided? 

Vaccine is being distributed according to guidelines from the CDC and the Stateprioritizing those who are most at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and those at risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their occupation.  

Health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff were the first in California to receive COVID-19 vaccine. Because supply of vaccine is currently limited, these groups were prioritized because they are most at risk of harm from COVID-19. As supply increases, more groups will be eligible for vaccine in the coming months.  

How does the County ensure that the vaccine is being distributed in a fair and equitable way?  

San Luis Obispo County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Values & Principles: 

  1. Provide transparent and accurate information to help people make vaccine decisions 
  2. Share regularly updated statistics and vaccine data for our county 
  3. Utilize the SLO County Vaccine Task Force to represent the diversity of our community and advise on equitable distribution  
  4. Lead with safety and equity, prioritizing our most vulnerable residents 
  5. Leverage all venues and partners for broad distribution (Community Vaccine Clinics, Hospitals, Pharmacies, and more)  
What is the role of the Federal, State, and Local government in vaccine planning?   

Federal agencies will decide: 

  • Which vaccines are approved for use in United States (FDA) 

  • How much vaccine will be allocated to each state (CDC) 

  • Overall framework for who gets vaccine at each phase of the rollout (CDC) 

  • Ongoing research, monitoring, and oversight (NIH, FDA, CDC) 

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will decide: 

  • Which vaccine(s) will be used in CA 

  • How much vaccine will be allocated to each local health jurisdiction/county 

  • State-specific framework for who will get vaccine when (per federal guidelines) 

  • Which data systems will be used across the state to monitor vaccine distribution and uptake 

  • Ongoing data collection, monitoring and oversight 

SLO County Public Health will: 

  • Coordinate local infrastructure for vaccine storage, distribution, & administration 

  • Promote equitable distribution across local communities 

  • Develop County-specific framework for who gets vaccine when (per state guidelines) 

  • Conduct ongoing data reporting and monitoring 

Why is vaccine supply so limited in SLO County?  
The Federal government decides how much vaccine is allocated to each state, and then the State decides how much of that is allocated to each county. We have asked the State for more vaccine here in SLO County and have been disappointed with the small amounts we are receiving. We do not know the State's formula for determining how much vaccine is sent to SLO County (though we have asked for that as well). Because vaccine supply is currently limited, appointments will be limited as well. To see how much vaccine supply we receive each week from the state, check out our Vaccine Dashboard.  
How do I contact the State about questions related to vaccine allocation to SLO County?  
For questions on how the State decides how much vaccine to allocate to SLO County, please call the California Department of Public Health at (833) 422-4255 Monday through Friday 8AM-8PM, Weekends 8AM-5PM. 
Where can I see how many vaccines have been administered so far?   
Check out our detailed Vaccine Dashboard, with weekly updated statistics on vaccine distribution progress in SLO County.  
I am a health care provider—when will my clinic be able to provide vaccine to our patients  

Health care providers in SLO County are invited to enroll to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine and administer the vaccine to patients when the patients become eligible. The initial task for outpatient providers will be to ensure that their own staff are vaccinated. Signing up as a vaccination provider will also help prepare you to vaccinate others, including your own outpatients, when they are eligible. 

We recommend beginning the process now, as it involves multiple steps and levels of review from the State.  

Getting Vaccinated
Does it cost money to get the vaccine?   
There is no cost associated with getting vaccinated against COVID-19— regardless of insurance, immigration status, or vaccine phase.   
What do I need to bring to show that I’m eligible? 
See What documentation will I need to bring to my appointment?    
What else should I bring to my appointment? How long should I expect to be there? 

Be prepared to spend up to one hour for the entire process. This includes registration, screening, vaccination, and an observation period. After you get your vaccine, you will be asked to sit outside for a 15-minute observation period following your vaccination. You may want to bring a jacket.

Please wear short sleeves or other clothing that makes it easy to access your upper arm.

You should complete and bring your screening form ahead of time to speed up the process. 
How are you accommodating those who have trouble walking?  
At all vaccine sites, we are prepared to provide vaccine to people who have trouble walking or have other access and functional needs. When you arrive at the site, a greeter will help ensure you receive the support you need.   
May I bring a family member with me when I get the vaccine, like I would at a doctor’s appointment?   
Yes. If you are eligible to receive the vaccine, you may bring a family member or other support person to accompany you through your appointment. (This person will not receive the vaccine.) If you need support at the appointment and do not bring someone with you, we will help you. 
Can I take over-the-counter pain medicine after my vaccine? 
Mild side effects such as arm soreness, headache, or fatigue are normal following the vaccine. In most cases, it is okay to take an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help manage these types of symptoms after you get your vaccine. Talk more with your primary care doctor if you have concerns. 
Are you accepting walk-ins?  
No, vaccination clinics cannot accommodate walk-ins. Please do not show up at a vaccination clinic if you do not have an appointment and/or are not eligible for vaccine, you will be turned away.  
What happens to extra doses at the end of the day?   
Leftover doses will not be administered to walk-ins or people who show up at the end of the day expecting vaccine. Near the end of the day, County-operated COVID-19 vaccine clinics may find that they have several extra doses of vaccine, due to late no-show appointments or because there were remaining doses from opened vials. While this rarely happens, there is a process to ensure that vaccines are not wasted (if not used within several hours of preparation, these doses cannot be administered). To avoid waste, we quickly and efficiently administer any excess doses at the end of the day to clinic staff or available first responders or emergency workers, or transfer those doses to another vaccine location in need and awaiting additional doses.  
When will I be immune?   
See Can you still get the virus even after getting vaccinated?  
How long will the immunity last?   
We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data.  
If I recently received a different vaccine, may I still receive a COVID-19 vaccine?   
If you have received a vaccination within the past 14 days, you are not able to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.  If you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, please wait 14 days past your last vaccination. 
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, should I still get the vaccine?   

Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection is possible, the CDC recommends that you still get the vaccine even if you have already recovered from COVID-19 infection. (CDC) 

During the time when vaccine supply is limited, people who have had COVID-19 may be asked to wait 90 days after they recover to receive the vaccine. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus is uncommon in the 90 days following initial infection.   

If I currently have COVID-19, can I get the vaccine?   

Those currently infected with COVID-19 need to wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and they have met criteria to discontinue isolation.  Anyone who is currently sick with any illness should wait to be vaccinated.

During the time when vaccine supply is limited, people who have had COVID-19 may be asked to wait 90 days after they recover to receive the vaccine. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus is uncommon in the 90 days following initial infection.  
Do I need to wear a mask and continue social distancing after I’ve received two doses of the vaccine?   
Yes. Vaccines are just one tool we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. Continuing to wear a mask, washing your hands often, and social distancing from others will further reduce your chances of being exposed to the virus or spreading it. Experts are still learning about the protection that the vaccine provides and will update public health guidelines as new information becomes available. (CDC)  
When can I stop wearing a mask?   
There is not currently enough information for the CDC to anticipate when they will stop recommending the use of masks and social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Factors such as how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will shed further light on this decision. (CDC
Are there other vaccines or medicines that can help prevent me from getting COVID-19?   

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are the only vaccines currently authorized for use in preventing COVID-19. Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are still under development and large-scale clinical trials are in progress or being planned for two additional COVID-19 vaccines in the US.

A flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19, but it can protect you from getting influenza (flu) at the same time as COVID-19, and may lessen your risk of severe illness. (CDC