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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 in late 2020 was a welcome sign for many that the pandemic's end could be in sight. While the initial distribution went more slowly than hoped, increased supplies have allowed health officials to expand eligibility since spring 2021.

Below is a list of who can 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. Bivalent booster shots of the following vaccines are available to the following groups:

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

• Moderna: People ages 6 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

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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 is providing the vaccine to people ages 12 and up. For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Santa Clara County

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

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

• Moderna: People ages 6 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

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.

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Santa Clara County is also offering doses of Novavax's COVID-19 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 its 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 and age. 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 Janssen/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 had 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 6 months and older. Most Californians can get 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, 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.

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.

Updated booster vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna were approved in early September 2022. The boosters are bivalent, which means they offer protection from the original coronavirus strain and omicron variants of COVID-19. They replace the monovalent booster vaccines that were previously distributed.

The CDC recommends an additional dose for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised at least 28 days after completing the primary vaccination series.

Those ages 6 and up and eligible for a booster dose can select from either the Pfizer or Moderna bivalent booster vaccines, as the CDC has allowed for "mix and match dosing." The CDC advises children who are 5 years old to get the updated Pfizer booster. 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.

A complete list of Santa Clara County's vaccination locations is available 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.

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

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.

Once I'm fully vaccinated, do I still need to take COVID-19 tests?

A test should be taken if you're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. If you've been near someone who has the virus but don't experience symptoms, you should take a test at least five days after exposure, according to the CDC.

Anyone who plans to travel domestically in the U.S. is recommended to take a COVID-19 test before their trip as well as after their trip if they were in crowds or other situations that increased their risk of exposure. It may be a requirement if they're heading to an international destination, CDC officials said. International travelers entering the U.S. are recommended to take a test within three to five days after their arrival.

Do I still need to wear a mask while out in public?

Wearing a mask is an individual choice, though they are recommended in indoor public transportation settings and may be required based on local or state guidance.

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, 9:08 am
Updated: Tue, Oct 18, 2022, 2:43 pm

The news of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in late 2020 was a welcome sign for many that the pandemic's end could be in sight. While the initial distribution went more slowly than hoped, increased supplies have allowed health officials to expand eligibility since spring 2021.

Below is a list of who can 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. Bivalent booster shots of the following vaccines are available to the following groups:

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

• Moderna: People ages 6 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

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 is providing the vaccine to people ages 12 and up. For more information, visit the county's vaccination webpage.

Santa Clara County

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

• Pfizer-BioNTech: People ages 5 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

• Moderna: People ages 6 and up who completed their primary vaccination series or most recent booster dose of the original vaccine at least two months ago.

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.

Santa Clara County is also offering doses of Novavax's COVID-19 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 its 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 and age. 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 Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but may face a reduced number of available appointments.

Commonly asked questions

When can I get the vaccine?

The state had 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 6 months and older. Most Californians can get 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, 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.

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.

Updated booster vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna were approved in early September 2022. The boosters are bivalent, which means they offer protection from the original coronavirus strain and omicron variants of COVID-19. They replace the monovalent booster vaccines that were previously distributed.

The CDC recommends an additional dose for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised at least 28 days after completing the primary vaccination series.

Those ages 6 and up and eligible for a booster dose can select from either the Pfizer or Moderna bivalent booster vaccines, as the CDC has allowed for "mix and match dosing." The CDC advises children who are 5 years old to get the updated Pfizer booster. 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.

A complete list of Santa Clara County's vaccination locations is available 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.

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

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.

Once I'm fully vaccinated, do I still need to take COVID-19 tests?

A test should be taken if you're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. If you've been near someone who has the virus but don't experience symptoms, you should take a test at least five days after exposure, according to the CDC.

Anyone who plans to travel domestically in the U.S. is recommended to take a COVID-19 test before their trip as well as after their trip if they were in crowds or other situations that increased their risk of exposure. It may be a requirement if they're heading to an international destination, CDC officials said. International travelers entering the U.S. are recommended to take a test within three to five days after their arrival.

Do I still need to wear a mask while out in public?

Wearing a mask is an individual choice, though they are recommended in indoor public transportation settings and may be required based on local or state guidance.

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.

Comments

Over 50
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2021 at 1:59 pm
Over 50, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2021 at 1:59 pm

I tried to sign up through PAMF today, since over 50 are eligible. I had to answer a series of questions. One of them was whether I'd had a positive laboratory test in the last so many days. I did not have a laboratory Covid exposure test, but I did have a positive antibody test a few days ago -- from having Covid a YEAR ago (my doctor wanted to see if I was still positive, I also had a positive antibody test at 6 months afterwards, too). I didn't know how to answer the question which was clearly geared to making sure people who just got sick didn't get the vaccine. So I first answered yes (since PAMF did the test), and the system said I could not get vaccinated at this time. So I redid the questions and answered no, and it still said I couldn't get vaccinated.

I already asked the CDC whether I should basically go to the end of the line and wait to be vaccinated until everyone else had been because I had antibodies, and they said no, to get vaccinated when I was eligible.

But is this why the PAMF system wouldn't allow me to make an appointment? Is anyone else having luck making PAMF appointments?


MM
Registered user
another community
on Apr 3, 2021 at 7:04 pm
MM, another community
Registered user
on Apr 3, 2021 at 7:04 pm

@Over 50,

I realize you wrote your comment several days ago so my response may come too late for you. I have not signed up with PAMF, so I have no experience with their web site. Still, I feel compelled to respond as a couple of points came to my mind as I read your comment.

Have you phoned PAMF to ask them how you should respond to the lab test question in their online eligibility quiz? Also, did you clear the cookies in your computer before you took the quiz again?


The Real Slim K
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2021 at 6:44 am
The Real Slim K, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Apr 4, 2021 at 6:44 am

Why bother? Older than 50, but younger than 60, can't get it if you live in Santa Clara County.


chini
Registered user
Midtown
on Apr 4, 2021 at 9:27 am
chini, Midtown
Registered user
on Apr 4, 2021 at 9:27 am

Any reason why the force people to get appointments and not allow walk-ups or line-up to mass vaccination sites?

The elected representatives of Santa Clara County at all levels have let us down, giving us a runaround pointing to useless systems to "set up appointments" that do not exist. I would rather stand in line for a day and get my vaccine than enter my information in websites and not know the day or time of vaccination. Even better would be if my doctor from health insurance could provide me the time and place to get the J&J vaccine dosage.

Actually, I want my children to get vaccinated first as they have been going out and about, enabling me to stay and WFH. But the children are being tempted everyday to break the rules, cut the line to get the shot because of the remarkable ineptitude of public health officials and elected representatives.


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