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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 12 and up. Those ages 12-15 can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized for this age group on May 12.For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County is vaccinating residents ages 12 and up. Those ages 12-15 can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 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.

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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 Camion 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.

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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.

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 (the vaccine received emergency use authorization on Dec. 11).The FDA gave emergency use authorization for Moderna's vaccine on Dec. 18. 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.

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 /

Uploaded: Thu, Jan 21, 2021, 11:24 am
Updated: Mon, Oct 18, 2021, 6:21 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 is vaccinating residents ages 12 and up. Those ages 12-15 can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized for this age group on May 12.For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Santa Clara County is vaccinating residents ages 12 and up. Those ages 12-15 can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

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.

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.

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 (the vaccine received emergency use authorization on Dec. 11).The FDA gave emergency use authorization for Moderna's vaccine on Dec. 18. 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.

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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