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

Getting vaccinated is the safest and best way to protect yourself against COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and very effective at protecting you from COVID-19, without having to encounter the virus. Fully vaccinated people can now safely remove their masks in some situations, may not have to quarantine when exposed to someone with COIVD-19, and can travel more easily and safely.  

 

Additionally, fully vaccinated workers may not have to adhere to workplace testing requirements.  Beginning August 9, 2021, workers within healthcare settings, federal, or state offices who are not fully vaccinated must strictly adhere to current CDPH Masking Guidance as well  provide a negative PCR or antigen test at least once a week depending on the setting. Read the full guidance here.   

Why should my teen get vaccinated? 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is now approved for children ages 12 and olderoffering important protection for adolescents.  

  • Getting vaccinated is the safest way to protect against COVID-19. COVID-19 is a severe disease that puts young people at risk of long-term health complications and, in rare cases, even death. Getting vaccinated is the safest way to ensure protection against COVID-19.  

  • The vaccine is highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in adolescents. Data from Pfizer’s clinical trials showed 100% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in fully vaccinated volunteers age 12-15.  

  • Young people are at risk of infection from COVID-19. Now that so many adults have been vaccinated, children represent about 20% of new COVID cases nationwide.  

  • Young people can more safely enjoy their summer when fully vaccinated. Fun group activities like summer camp, sleepovers, and pool parties are safer when everyone is protected from COVID-19. And, fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19, as long as they’re asymptomatic. 

  • Traveling is both safer and easier when fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people can travel domestically without getting tested for COVID upon departure and return, and can enjoy the outdoors without masks on in non-crowded settings, according to the CDC.  

How safe and effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?  

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are safe and effectiveIn addition to receiving Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, the vaccines were separately vetted by California’s Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, who confirmed that all three vaccines have met high standards for safety and efficacy.   

Read more about the authorized vaccines.   

Do the vaccines protect against virus variants? 

Current data indicates that COVID-19 vaccines offer protection against new virus variants. Protecting more people in our community with vaccine will be key to slowing the spread of the disease and preventing new (and potentially vaccine-resistant) variants from cropping up. (CDC)

Watch this video in which Dr. Hank Bernstein provides more information about coronavirus mutations and the COVID-19 vaccines.

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) or watch this short video on why it’s not possible for mRNA vaccines to alter a person’s DNA. 

 

Brochure: What are mRNA Vaccines? 

How can I be sure that mRNA vaccines are safe, if they are still new? 

While the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are new, mRNA technology has actually been studied for decades. Hungarian-born scientist Katalin Karikó began researching and developing mRNA technology in the 1990s. mRNA vaccines have been tested in humans to prevent other infectious diseases including Zika, influenza, rabies, and cytomegalovirus, and were shown to be safe.

Additionally, vaccines authorized under emergency use undergo the same rigorous safety and efficacy testing as those granted typical FDA approval. Learn more about vaccine safety and authorization here.

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?   

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are both administered in a two-dose series, and both doses are required for the vaccine to be fully effective. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is administered in a single dose. It typically takes a few weeks for your body to be fully protected following your final dose of vaccine.

Watch this video of Dr. Paul Offit explaining why getting the second dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is so important.

How long will vaccine immunity last? 

We are still learning how long immunity lasts after infection or vaccination. The latest information shows that:

  • Following infection: people are not likely to be re-infected within 90 days of infection. However, scientists are working to learn more about immunity following infection. While some people have been re-infected after recovering from COVID-19, the number of people who have experienced this is small compared with the total number of people who have been infected.
  • Following vaccination with the mRNA vaccines: people are immune for at least 6 months and likely much longer. The same is likely to be true for the adenovirus-based vaccines too, but we are still waiting for data. Based on the elements of the immune response activated after vaccination with either the mRNA or adenovirus vaccines, it is likely that immunity will be long-lived. Time will tell, and if the virus changes in a way that evades immunity generated by vaccination, that would also affect the duration of protection.

Watch this short video in which Dr. Hank Bernstein addresses what is known about vaccine immunity and what we are still learning.

Will we need booster doses of vaccine? 

Right now, there is no need to get a booster dose of vaccine. The most important step we can take today is to help ensure that most people who are eligible get vaccinated, so we can reach community-level immunity.

Scientists are not certain whether people will need to get additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the future because we are still learning how long immunity lasts.

Additionally, the increased presence of variants might affect whether or how often additional doses would be needed. This is one reason scientists are eager to get as many people vaccinated as possible: the more the virus can replicate in people, the greater the chance that it will change in a way that allows it to spread widely, even among people who have been vaccinated. With this in mind, scientists are continuing to monitor variants and the ability of currently available vaccines to protect against them.

Watch this video in which Dr. Hank Bernstein explains why dosing recommendations may change over time.

Can you still get the virus even after getting vaccinated?  

The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, but it takes a few weeks for your body to build immunity after being vaccinated. That’s why it’s important to keep up with personal protective measures, especially if you have not completed your vaccine series. 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. 
 

That said, breakthrough cases, in which people get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated, do occur very rarely. Per the California Department of Public Health: out of over 20 million vaccinated individuals, only 0.003% (584 people) contracted COVID-19 and required hospitalization. The data and science clearly demonstrate vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, including the Delta variant. 

What are the differences between the authorized vaccines?   

SeeAbout the Leading Vaccines. 

Which vaccine will I get?  

All three currently authorized vaccines (from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) are available at SLO County Public Health clinics. You can choose which vaccine you would like to receive when booking your vaccine appointment through MyTurn.ca.gov.

Is it safe for me to get the vaccine if I'm pregnant?

Yes, if you are pregnant, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

New data from over 35,000 pregnant COVID-19 vaccine recipients indicates that the vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant people. People who are pregnant are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. We recommend that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding review the available resources below, and speak directly with their health care provider about their specific health situation and considerations related to getting the vaccine.   

Resources:

CDC: COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

CDPH: Guidance for COVID-19 Vaccination during Pregnancy

CDPH: COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy Factsheet

Mother to Baby: FAQs about COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center: In this short video, Dr. Hank Bernstein discusses COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy.

Is it safe for me to get the vaccine if I want to have children in the future? 

Yes, if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant now, or plan to become pregnant in the future, you may get a COVID-19 vaccine.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with fertility or pregnancy. No vaccine in the history of vaccines has ever been linked to fertility issues - for men or for women.

Watch this short video in which Dr. Paul Offit discusses COVID-19, the vaccines and infertility.

Read more about fertility and COVID-19 vaccines in this article from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center.

 

Brochure: Fertility and the COVID-19 Vaccine 

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

If I've already had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine? 

Yes. New data suggests that vaccine immunity is stronger and more robust than natural immunity acquired from COVID-19 infection. Getting vaccinated after you’ve already had COVID-19 can provide robust protection from reinfection, and the added benefit of being able to remove your mask in most situations.

Additionally, experts still don’t know how long natural immunity lasts following infection. For this reason, and because a small number of people have had more severe second bouts of infection, experts recommend that people who have previously had COVID-19 still get the vaccine.

Watch this video of Dr. Paul Offit explaining why those who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 should still get the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Brochure: Getting the Vaccine Even if You’ve had COVID-19 

What is known about myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccination? 

Some cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, have been reported in teens after receipt of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.  Most patients who received care responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better. Experts continue to monitor the situation related to myocarditis and the CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older, given the risk of COVID-19 illness and possibly severe complications such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death.

The American Heart Association has also released a statement encouraging continued vaccination.

While the condition is still being investigated, here’s what we know:

  • Available data suggest that the incidence of myocarditis following mRNA vaccines is about 1 per 50,000 vaccine recipients. Myocarditis also occurs more commonly as part of COVID-19 illness – either as a result of acute COVID-19 or as part of the multisystem inflammatory syndrome of children (MIS-C) that can develop as a result of COVID-19.
  • The CDC estimates that for every million second doses of vaccine administered to young adults:
    •  14,000+ COVID-19 cases are prevented
    • 1,000+ hospitalizations are prevented
    • 100+ ICU admissions are prevented
    • 10+ deaths are prevented
    • There is a possibility of 5-45 cases of short-lived and quickly resolving myocarditis
    • The cases of myocarditis that have occurred so far were more often in boys and young men and more often after the second dose. Symptoms occurred within 4 days after receipt of the dose. Recently immunized teens and young adults who experience chest pain or shortness of breath should be seen by a healthcare provider and report their recent vaccination.
    • Myocarditis is somewhat common, particularly as a result of viral infections. Cases tend to occur more often in the spring due to viruses that circulate at this time of year (specifically, coxsackie B viruses). Typically, about 100-200 cases occur per million people per year.
    • To date, about 306 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been given, and about 7.2 million of these have been in teens (12-18 years old).
    • The benefits of vaccination outweigh the real, but incredibly rare risk of myocarditis following mRNA vaccination.

In this short video, Dr. Paul Offit discusses myocarditis related to receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Brochure: COVId-19 Vaccine and Myocarditis 

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. 

 

 

Appointment Reservation
How can I book my first-dose appointment?   

You can book both your 1st and 2nd-dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments at a Public Health clinic near you by visiting MyTurn.ca.gov or by calling (833) 422-4255 (Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm).

You can also use www.VaccineFinder.org to find vaccine appointments available through other community providers and pharmacies.

How can I book my second-dose appointment?   

Use our second-dose calculator to get a recommended date for your second dose. Then, schedule your second-dose appointment at MyTurn.ca.gov or by calling (833) 422-4255 (Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm).

Will I receive a confirmation that I’ve booked an appointment?  

Yes. After booking a vaccine appointment through My Turn, individuals who have an email and/or mobile phone will receive an appointment confirmation via email and/or SMS text. These individuals will also receive an appointment reminder 24 hours before their appointment and a post-appointment notification.   

How can I change or cancel my vaccination appointment?   

If you need to cancel your vaccine appointment booked through MyTurnyou’ll be able to use the link provided in the confirmation email and/or SMS message labeled “Manage your appointments” to cancel your appointment and book a new appointment. 

If you need assistance, please call the CA COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255 Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-5pm.   

What documentation will I need to bring to my appointment?   
  • To show that you are eligible for vaccine, please bring documentation showing your age, such as a driver’s license, state ID, passport, birth certificate, etc.  
  • Please also print, fill out, and bring your completed screening form / forumulario de examen para vacunas with you to your appointment. 
  • Note: You do not need to be a United States citizen to receive the vaccine. We will never ask about citizenship or immigration status.    
What documentation will my minor child need to bring to their appointment?
  • Minor children must have an accompanying parent or guardian with them, as well as documentation of their age, such as a passport, birth certificate, medical record, school ID, etc.
  • Parents: please review and sign the forms available at www.RecoverSLO.org/VaccineForms / www.RecoverSLO.org/FormulariosDeVacuna before your child’s vaccine appointment.   
Can I get transportation to my appointment?   
  • Residents 75 and older: Rides 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.
  • Residents with a disability: SLO County residents with a disability can get connected with transportation resources through the Independent Living Resource Center. Call their San Luis Obispo office at 805-462-1162 for more information about transportation resources that may be available to you.
  • Residents on CenCal/Medi-Cal: CenCal members can receive free/paid transportation to a County vaccine clinic if they have an appointment. Members must call 48-hours before the appointment is scheduled. Members and providers may contact Ventura Transit System (VTS) directly at (855) 659-4600 for transportation services, or call CenCal Health's Member Services Department at 1 (877) 814-1861 for assistance.
How should people without access to a computer, email, or mobile phone schedule an appointment?

Individuals without access to a computer, email, or mobile phone can receive assistance by calling the CA COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255 Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-5pm. 
 

Note: unless an email or mobile number is provided, these individuals will not receive an appointment confirmation notification or appointment reminder. Those without mobile phones can provide their relative's or loved one's mobile phone number to receive an appointment confirmation notification or reminder. 

 

Getting Vaccinated
Does it cost money to get the vaccine?   

The COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge at County Public Health clinics, regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status. 

You can sign up for your free COVID-19 vaccine through County Public Health by visiting MyTurn.ca.gov.

*Note: Some local pharmacies may bill your insurance provider or charge an administrative fee to those without insurance. If you wish to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from a local pharmacy, check directly with them about their policies and fees.    

How can I get a new Vaccine Card if mine is lost or damaged? 

If your Vaccine Card is lost or damaged, please:

  1. Call Public Health at (805) 781-5506
  2. Pick up a new vaccine record at the Public Health Department (2191 Johnson Avenue in San Luis Obispo) between 8-5pm Monday through Friday (bring a photo ID) OR request that your vaccine record be mailed to you.
How are you accommodating those who have trouble walking?  
Public Health clinics are prepared to provide vaccine to people who have trouble walking or have other access and functional needs. When you arrive at a clinic, a staff member 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. 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?  

Yes. County Public Health clinics are now offering the COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment during available hours, as supply allows. Days and hours of clinic operation may vary — for up-to-date hours and open days, visit the When/Where page..   

Appointments are also available at all three County Public Health clinics, in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Grover Beach, for those who wish to confirm their preferred time and vaccine type. To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at any of the County’s Public Health clinics, visit myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255. 

What happens to extra doses at the end of the day?   
Near the end of the day, Public Health clinics may find that they have several extra doses of vaccine, due to no-show appointments or because there were remaining doses from opened vials. To avoid waste, vaccine clinics may administer extra doses to community members who walk up without an appointment, or transfer those doses to another vaccine location in need of additional doses.         
If I recently received a different vaccine, may I still receive a COVID-19 vaccine?   

Yes—COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines on the same day.  

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.  

When can I stop wearing a mask?   

On July 28, 2021 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) updated its Guidance for Face Coverings, recommending mask use for indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status. Read the full recommendation here 

 

Masks are still required for all fully individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in the following settings: 

  • On public transit (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation) 

  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings. 

    • Note: This may change as updated K-12 schools guidance is forthcoming, pending updates for K-12 operational guidance from the CDC. 

Masks are still required for all people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, on public transit, indoors in school and childcare settings, in healthcare settings and long-term care facilities, in correctional facilities and detention centers, and in homeless shelters. For more detail, visit CDPH.ca.gov. 

Are there other vaccines or medicines that can help prevent me from getting COVID-19?   

Currently, there are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the US to help prevent you from getting COVID-19.

No other vaccines or medications will help protect you from COVID-19, but there  are personal protection measures you can take to lessen your risk of infection.

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

I’m fully vaccinated, can I gather with others who are fully vaccinated as well? 

View the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people.