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Your COVID-19 vaccine questions — answered

A guide to eligibility and where people can get shots

Nurse Laura Zimmerman receives her first injection of the newly developed coronavirus vaccine at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System on Dec. 16, 2020. Photo by Federica Armstrong.

The news of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout late last year was a welcome sign for many that the pandemic’s end could be in sight. But the process has gone slower than hoped for initially, and confusion abounds as state and local leaders expand eligibility. Below is a list of who can currently get vaccinated in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, plus answers to common questions and links to resources. We will update and add to this page as more information becomes available.

San Mateo County

San Mateo County is vaccinating residents ages 6 months and up. Booster shots of the three available vaccines are available to the following groups:

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

• Moderna: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

• Janssen/Johnson & Johnson: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least two months ago.

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Mixing and matching vaccines is not encouraged for adolescents.

The county is providing second booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to people ages 50 and older and certain people with immune deficiencies, which was authorized by the FDA and CDC on March 29, 2022. San Mateo County Health recommends those who qualify to schedule an appointment with their primary health care provider or pharmacy to avoid long wait times. Walk-ins will also be accepted at the county's community clinics.

On July 19, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine, which is the fourth available in the U.S. San Mateo County Health has not issued a public statement regarding its plans for distributing the Novavax vaccine. For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County is vaccinating residents ages 6 months and up. Booster shots of the three available vaccines are available to the following groups:

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

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• Moderna: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

• Janssen/Johnson & Johnson: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least two months ago.

Mixing and matching vaccines is not encouraged for adolescents.

The county is providing second booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to people ages 50 and older and certain people with immune deficiencies, which was authorized by the FDA and CDC on March 29, 2022.

On July 20, 2022, Santa Clara County announced that it plans to offer Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine to the public once supplies arrive. For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Vaccine information from health care providers

Kaiser Permanente

Visit Kaiser Permanente’s website for the latest information on vaccine priorities and how to get a vaccine when you meet the criteria, or call their 24/7 recorded message hotline at 855‑550‑0951 (available in English and Spanish) for regular updates. Members will receive email updates on the vaccines by registering at kp.org. For more information, visit kp.org/coronavirus.

Stanford Health Care

Vaccine eligibility depends on your county of residence, age and in some cases your occupation. At this time, established primary care patients with Stanford Health Care who meet the following criteria may schedule a vaccination via MyHealth or by calling 650-498-9000.

Due to frequent updates and expanding eligible populations, Stanford encourages patients to visit its website for the most up-to-date information.

Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation

If Sutter Health (which includes Palo Alto Medical Foundation) is your health care provider, you can contact the Sutter vaccine appointment system online at sutterhealth.org/covid-vaccine and by phone at 844-987-6115. Members can select from either the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but may face a reduced number of available appointments.

Commonly asked questions

El Camino Health doctor Daniel Shin receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at El Camino Health in Mountain View on Dec. 19, 2020. Photo by Federica Armstrong.

When can I get the vaccine?

The state has a vaccination plan which outlines guidance for counties on who should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations. Eligibility was originally broken down by tiers. Now, vaccinations are open to residents ages 16 and up. Those ages 12-15 can also schedule vaccination appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Most Californians will be vaccinated at community vaccination sites, doctor's offices, clinics or pharmacies.

Counties may also be at different stages of the vaccination plan. For more information, view the San Mateo and Santa Clara county-specific sections above.

Do I qualify for booster shot?

The CDC and FDA has approved booster shots for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johson vaccines. An extra shot of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available for those ages 65 and older and people ages 12 to 64 who are at higher risk of serious illness because of medical conditions or the nature of their job as outlined by the CDC. Those eligible for boosters are advised to get them at least five months after receiving their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster is available to adults at least two months after their initial single dose, according to the CDC.

As of July 2022, Novavax's vaccine is not available as a booster shot.

California has gone beyond the CDC's recommendations by allowing booster shots for adults who completed their initial vaccination series at least six months ago.

The CDC recommends an additional dose for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised at least 28 days after their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. There isn't sufficient data on whether an immunocompromised person who initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would see an increased antibody response after an additional dose of the same vaccine.

Those eligible for a booster dose can select from any of the three available vaccines, as the CDC has allowed for "mix and match dosing." The booster dose won't be dependent upon the brand of vaccine that a recipient previously received during their initial inoculations.

California's MyTurn vaccination scheduling tool has a booster eligibility page that will send alerts to state residents if they are eligible.

In Santa Clara County, boosters are available at five large-scale vaccination sites for eligible individuals who live, work or attend school in the county. A complete list of county vaccination locations is available below. See hours of operation and sign up for an appointment at sccfreevax.org. Many doctors' offices and pharmacies are also now offering COVID-19 boosters, according to the county.

"We now understand that the protection from the initial vaccine series may decrease over time, and a booster shot is highly effective in preventing serious hospitalization and death," county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a press release.

Officials strongly recommended booster shots for people who are at least 65 years old, ages 50 and older with an underlying medical condition and adults who live in a long-term care facility. They called on vaccinated adults who have an underlying medical condition or are at risk of COVID-19 exposure because of an occupational or institutional setting to consider getting a booster.

Santa Clara County locations offering boosters include:

• North County, 435 San Antonio Road, Mountain View

• Valley Health Care, Gilroy clinic, 7475 Camino Arroyo, Gilroy

• San Martin vaccination site, 90 W. Highland Ave., San Martin

• Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, Expo Hall, 2542 Monterey Road, San Jose

• Valley Health Care, Specialty Center, 751 Bascom Ave., San Jose

An updated list of vaccination clinics in San Mateo County can be found at smchealth.org/vaccine-clinic-calendar.

What vaccines are currently being distributed?

Doses of three COVID-19 vaccines are currently being issued across the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine on Aug. 23, 2021 and Moderna's vaccine on Jan. 31, 2022. Both vaccines are administered through two doses. Pfizer-BioNTech's doses are given 21 days apart and Moderna's doses are provided 28 days apart. The FDA gave emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine on Feb. 27, 2021. In July 2022, the FDA and CDC approved the use of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine as a two-shot series administered three weeks apart.

Does the vaccine have any reported side effects?

People may experience pain or swelling in the area where they received the shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They may also come down with a fever, chills, headache and fatigue. The side effects could be similar to the flu, but should dissipate days after receiving the shot.

If you notice redness or tenderness grows in the spot where the shot was administered after 24 hours or the side effects persist after a few days, the CDC recommends contacting your doctor or health care provider.

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine contains a small piece of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus' messenger RNA (mRNA), which is a piece of genetic material that instructs cells in the body to make the virus' distinctive "spike" protein. The body of a person who receives the vaccine produces copies of the spike protein, which triggers the immune system to react defensively and produce an immune response against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

The FDA noted there isn't data to determine how long the vaccine will provide protection, nor is there evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of the virus from person to person.

How much will the vaccine cost?

COVID-19 vaccines, including their administration, are free, according to the state.

Once I'm vaccinated, am I fully protected from COVID-19?

Currently, researchers are still investigating how long a vaccinated individual will be immune from the disease, according to the CDC. There is a risk of contracting the virus shortly after receiving the vaccine because it can take a few weeks to build up a sufficient amount of the lymphocytes that help fight COVID-19. Health leaders say until the data says otherwise, vaccinated people still need to take safety precautions against COVID-19, including wearing face coverings, washing their hands and practicing social distancing.

Can I sign up somewhere to be notified when I am eligible for the vaccine?

The state has launched the My Turn COVID-19 vaccination system to let people know if they are eligible to receive a vaccine, and if not yet eligible, to register for a notification via email or text when they are eligible. For more information, visit myturn.ca.gov.

Have more questions on the COVID-19 vaccines and latest rollout plans? Send them by email to [email protected] and we'll do our best to get them answered.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Your COVID-19 vaccine questions — answered

A guide to eligibility and where people can get shots

by Embarcadero Media staff /

Uploaded: Thu, Jan 21, 2021, 11:24 am
Updated: Fri, Jul 22, 2022, 4:07 pm

The news of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout late last year was a welcome sign for many that the pandemic’s end could be in sight. But the process has gone slower than hoped for initially, and confusion abounds as state and local leaders expand eligibility. Below is a list of who can currently get vaccinated in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, plus answers to common questions and links to resources. We will update and add to this page as more information becomes available.

San Mateo County

San Mateo County is vaccinating residents ages 6 months and up. Booster shots of the three available vaccines are available to the following groups:

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

• Moderna: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

• Janssen/Johnson & Johnson: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least two months ago.

Mixing and matching vaccines is not encouraged for adolescents.

The county is providing second booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to people ages 50 and older and certain people with immune deficiencies, which was authorized by the FDA and CDC on March 29, 2022. San Mateo County Health recommends those who qualify to schedule an appointment with their primary health care provider or pharmacy to avoid long wait times. Walk-ins will also be accepted at the county's community clinics.

On July 19, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine, which is the fourth available in the U.S. San Mateo County Health has not issued a public statement regarding its plans for distributing the Novavax vaccine. For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County is vaccinating residents ages 6 months and up. Booster shots of the three available vaccines are available to the following groups:

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

• Moderna: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least five months ago.

• Janssen/Johnson & Johnson: Adults who completed their primary vaccination series at least two months ago.

Mixing and matching vaccines is not encouraged for adolescents.

The county is providing second booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to people ages 50 and older and certain people with immune deficiencies, which was authorized by the FDA and CDC on March 29, 2022.

On July 20, 2022, Santa Clara County announced that it plans to offer Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine to the public once supplies arrive. For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Vaccine information from health care providers

Kaiser Permanente

Visit Kaiser Permanente’s website for the latest information on vaccine priorities and how to get a vaccine when you meet the criteria, or call their 24/7 recorded message hotline at 855‑550‑0951 (available in English and Spanish) for regular updates. Members will receive email updates on the vaccines by registering at kp.org. For more information, visit kp.org/coronavirus.

Stanford Health Care

Vaccine eligibility depends on your county of residence, age and in some cases your occupation. At this time, established primary care patients with Stanford Health Care who meet the following criteria may schedule a vaccination via MyHealth or by calling 650-498-9000.

Due to frequent updates and expanding eligible populations, Stanford encourages patients to visit its website for the most up-to-date information.

Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation

If Sutter Health (which includes Palo Alto Medical Foundation) is your health care provider, you can contact the Sutter vaccine appointment system online at sutterhealth.org/covid-vaccine and by phone at 844-987-6115. Members can select from either the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but may face a reduced number of available appointments.

Commonly asked questions

When can I get the vaccine?

The state has a vaccination plan which outlines guidance for counties on who should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations. Eligibility was originally broken down by tiers. Now, vaccinations are open to residents ages 16 and up. Those ages 12-15 can also schedule vaccination appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Most Californians will be vaccinated at community vaccination sites, doctor's offices, clinics or pharmacies.

Counties may also be at different stages of the vaccination plan. For more information, view the San Mateo and Santa Clara county-specific sections above.

Do I qualify for booster shot?

The CDC and FDA has approved booster shots for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johson vaccines. An extra shot of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available for those ages 65 and older and people ages 12 to 64 who are at higher risk of serious illness because of medical conditions or the nature of their job as outlined by the CDC. Those eligible for boosters are advised to get them at least five months after receiving their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster is available to adults at least two months after their initial single dose, according to the CDC.

As of July 2022, Novavax's vaccine is not available as a booster shot.

California has gone beyond the CDC's recommendations by allowing booster shots for adults who completed their initial vaccination series at least six months ago.

The CDC recommends an additional dose for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised at least 28 days after their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. There isn't sufficient data on whether an immunocompromised person who initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would see an increased antibody response after an additional dose of the same vaccine.

Those eligible for a booster dose can select from any of the three available vaccines, as the CDC has allowed for "mix and match dosing." The booster dose won't be dependent upon the brand of vaccine that a recipient previously received during their initial inoculations.

California's MyTurn vaccination scheduling tool has a booster eligibility page that will send alerts to state residents if they are eligible.

In Santa Clara County, boosters are available at five large-scale vaccination sites for eligible individuals who live, work or attend school in the county. A complete list of county vaccination locations is available below. See hours of operation and sign up for an appointment at sccfreevax.org. Many doctors' offices and pharmacies are also now offering COVID-19 boosters, according to the county.

"We now understand that the protection from the initial vaccine series may decrease over time, and a booster shot is highly effective in preventing serious hospitalization and death," county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a press release.

Officials strongly recommended booster shots for people who are at least 65 years old, ages 50 and older with an underlying medical condition and adults who live in a long-term care facility. They called on vaccinated adults who have an underlying medical condition or are at risk of COVID-19 exposure because of an occupational or institutional setting to consider getting a booster.

Santa Clara County locations offering boosters include:

• North County, 435 San Antonio Road, Mountain View

• Valley Health Care, Gilroy clinic, 7475 Camino Arroyo, Gilroy

• San Martin vaccination site, 90 W. Highland Ave., San Martin

• Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, Expo Hall, 2542 Monterey Road, San Jose

• Valley Health Care, Specialty Center, 751 Bascom Ave., San Jose

An updated list of vaccination clinics in San Mateo County can be found at smchealth.org/vaccine-clinic-calendar.

What vaccines are currently being distributed?

Doses of three COVID-19 vaccines are currently being issued across the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine on Aug. 23, 2021 and Moderna's vaccine on Jan. 31, 2022. Both vaccines are administered through two doses. Pfizer-BioNTech's doses are given 21 days apart and Moderna's doses are provided 28 days apart. The FDA gave emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine on Feb. 27, 2021. In July 2022, the FDA and CDC approved the use of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine as a two-shot series administered three weeks apart.

Does the vaccine have any reported side effects?

People may experience pain or swelling in the area where they received the shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They may also come down with a fever, chills, headache and fatigue. The side effects could be similar to the flu, but should dissipate days after receiving the shot.

If you notice redness or tenderness grows in the spot where the shot was administered after 24 hours or the side effects persist after a few days, the CDC recommends contacting your doctor or health care provider.

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine contains a small piece of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus' messenger RNA (mRNA), which is a piece of genetic material that instructs cells in the body to make the virus' distinctive "spike" protein. The body of a person who receives the vaccine produces copies of the spike protein, which triggers the immune system to react defensively and produce an immune response against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

The FDA noted there isn't data to determine how long the vaccine will provide protection, nor is there evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of the virus from person to person.

How much will the vaccine cost?

COVID-19 vaccines, including their administration, are free, according to the state.

Once I'm vaccinated, am I fully protected from COVID-19?

Currently, researchers are still investigating how long a vaccinated individual will be immune from the disease, according to the CDC. There is a risk of contracting the virus shortly after receiving the vaccine because it can take a few weeks to build up a sufficient amount of the lymphocytes that help fight COVID-19. Health leaders say until the data says otherwise, vaccinated people still need to take safety precautions against COVID-19, including wearing face coverings, washing their hands and practicing social distancing.

Can I sign up somewhere to be notified when I am eligible for the vaccine?

The state has launched the My Turn COVID-19 vaccination system to let people know if they are eligible to receive a vaccine, and if not yet eligible, to register for a notification via email or text when they are eligible. For more information, visit myturn.ca.gov.

Have more questions on the COVID-19 vaccines and latest rollout plans? Send them by email to [email protected] and we'll do our best to get them answered.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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