Where can you get a COVID-19 vaccine now that everyone in California ages 16 and older is eligible? Which county are you allowed to make an appointment in? And what should you do if you just can't find any appointments right now?
Everyone in California ages 16 and older is now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, no matter where they live or work.
When it's your time to get vaccinated, your COVID-19 vaccine will be free. You do not need health insurance to be vaccinated. You also will not be asked for proof of citizenship or about your immigration status.
Additionally, when using My Turn to find a vaccine appointment, people 12-17 will need a parent or legal guardian to make the booking, since My Turn asks you to "certify that I am at least 18 years of age, or the parent or legal guardian of the minor patient."
The state says even with increased vaccine supply, "vaccination of willing Californians will take several months, and demand will be high." So don't panic if you're unable to find a COVID-19 vaccine appointment right away. Just because the state says you're technically eligible for your vaccine doesn't mean your county is actually ready to provide it.
Don't assume you'll be proactively contacted about getting your COVID-19 vaccine. Now that everyone is eligible for a vaccine, you should do the following — and if you're signing up for email notifications about vaccines through these avenues (which you definitely should) be sure to check your email daily to make sure you don't miss any crucial updates:
1. Find a COVID-19 Vaccine Through My Turn
My Turn is the state's tool that allows Californians to schedule vaccination appointments, as supplies allow.
My Turn will ask you for your information, and then for a ZIP code or location you'd like to search for vaccine appointments around. You can give your home location, or you can also input other locations to see what sites are available farther from your home.
When you find and schedule appointments for a vaccination site through My Turn, the California Department of Public Health says that you won't necessarily need to be a resident or a worker in that particular county where the vaccination site is based. So don't worry if My Turn is suggesting appointments a different county other than the one you live or work in.
As well as showing you clinics and pharmacies near you offering the vaccine, My Turn is the place to see appointments at mass vaccination sites like San Francisco's Moscone Center. (Please note that the mass vaccination site at the Oakland Coliseum is now closed as of May 23.) If you're trying to find an appointment at a certain location like Moscone (ZIP code 94103) and can't see it in the search results, try searching on My Turn for that site's exact ZIP code, rather than your own. Remember that if you're not seeing a specific site in the search results, it might just be because of low supply or lack of available appointments. You'll also be shown a lot of pharmacy results: Keep scrolling through them to make sure you're not missing clinic results hidden among them.
My Turn is available in the following languages, which you can select in the first drop-down menu: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Armenian, Japanese, Khmer, Punjabi, Russian and Farsi.
My Turn will ask you to provide a cellphone number and an email address. The state says this is so you can use two-factor authentication to doubly confirm your identity and make your appointment, and to prevent bots automatically scooping up available appointments online.
If you don't have an email address or a cellphone number, or have questions, you can call the California COVID-19 Hotline at 833-422-4255 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-5 p.m PT) and sign up over the phone. Both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking operators are available. Callers needing information in other languages will be connected to translation service that offers 254 other languages.
If you've been given a special code through a local community organization for scheduling a COVID-19 vaccination, be sure to input it in the "Access Code" (formerly called an "Accessibility Code") section on My Turn. Find more information about vaccine access codes.
Sign up for notifications and check if you're currently able to make an appointment through My Turn.
2. Find a COVID-19 Vaccine Through Your County
Visit your county's public health website to learn how your county is vaccinating its residents. It's also likely that you can get vaccinated by the county you work in, if it's different to your county of residence. The availability of vaccination appointments will be based on the doses that the state has supplied your county with.
3. Find a COVID-19 Vaccine Through Your Health Care Provider
If you have health insurance, check with your provider to see if they can offer you your COVID-19 vaccine. If you don't have health insurance but get medical care through a city/county-run provider, you can check with that location.
As well as trying to talk with your health care provider directly, check the website for your provider to see if they're offering the ability to make appointments, and sign up for their vaccine notifications if they're offering them.
4. Find a COVID-19 Vaccine Through a Local Pharmacy
You can also try calling your local pharmacy to see if they're offering the COVID-19 vaccine and to whom.
The volunteer-run site VaccinateCA shows pharmacies near you that are offering vaccinations. You can also see these pharmacies using VaccineFinder, a tool run by Boston Children's Hospital in partnership with the CDC.
I Can't Find a Vaccine Appointment. What Should I Do?
If you're getting frustrated with trying to find COVID-19 vaccine appointments online: It's not just you. And you're not doing anything wrong.
Even as the state's My Turn tool has expanded, the often-complex nature of scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment online and the sheer number of locations offering vaccines has caused frustration and concern for many over the last few months. These issues even prompted the creation of a volunteer-powered VaccinateCA dashboard, which shows vaccination locations near you, noting their current availability and how to schedule an appointment. Read more about how VaccinateCA works.
As vaccine availability begins to improve around the Bay Area, you'll see more same-day or next-day appointment availability, particularly at mass vaccination sites through My Turn. Pharmacies near you may also be starting to offer walk-in appointments.
But that doesn't mean that you'll necessarily find an appointment straightaway, as vaccination appointments are still hard to find at many locations. If you're trying to make an appointment online, you may have to keep visiting the website in question to see if availability has changed.
How can you maximize your chances of being able to jump on an available appointment if you spot one? It's worth familiarizing yourself in advance with the various systems of vaccine scheduling online, so that you're ready when appointments do become available. Get familiar with My Turn and your own county's systems, and find out which pharmacies near you are offering the vaccine.
Keep scrolling down the webpage on My Turn even after the site tells you that "no appointments are available." There are further listings of pharmacies and clinics below that are easily missed.
Another way to be ready to snag an available appointment is to have your health insurance card ready to hand. Many appointment systems will ask you to upload details of your health insurance, and often you'll be asked to upload photos of the front and the back of your health insurance card, so it's a good idea to have the photos ready and waiting on your phone or on your computer. (If you don't have health insurance, don't worry: Your vaccine will still be free, and you can't be denied your vaccine because you don't have insurance.)
Out of an “abundance of caution” the Food and Drug Administration originally recommended a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine in the U.S. on April 13 after a very rare type of blood clot showed up in six women within about two weeks of receiving the vaccination. This news came just as California was about to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all people ages 16 and older. If you have questions, here's what you need to know about exactly why this happened:
Q: How Small Are the Risks With the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine?
A: More than 6.8 million people in the U.S. have received the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, so these are very, very small risks statistically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that all six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. Among the six women, one case was fatal and one patient is in critical condition.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was not “recalled,” "banned" or “canceled.”
"The relative risk is really, really low for these severe blood clots," said Dr. Catherine Blish, infectious disease specialist at Stanford Medicine. "So we've had the six cases out of almost seven million vaccines delivered, which is about one in a million. And while this has been hugely controversial, the birth control pills are associated with about one in 1,000 to [one in 100] rate of blood clots."
Q: If the Johnson & Johnson Risks Are So Small, Why Did the CDC and FDA Recommend the Pause?
To repeat: More than 6.8 million people in the U.S. have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The blood clots that prompted the pause showed up in six women. But because of the rare nature of these types of clots, health officials emphasize that they should not be treated the way other clots often are.
Most importantly, Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, said doctors should avoid using heparin, a standard blood-thinning treatment, because in these clots it "can cause tremendous harm, or the outcome can be fatal."
The need for specialized treatment is one reason the CDC and the FDA saw an urgent need to get the word out about this rare combination of side effects.
Medical experts say this kind of pause happens a lot and is "totally normal" and reasonable in order to investigate these extremely rare cases. Regulators don't know whether the six cases are related to the vaccine, and they need to do a deep dive into the individual patients to determine what's going on.
Q: I Got the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine. Do I Need to Look Out for Problems?
A: If you got your Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot less than three weeks ago, you should look out for severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek treatment with your health provider, an urgent care clinic or a hospital emergency room.
Remember, the number of people affected is very, very small.
If you got your shot more than three weeks ago, and you have experienced none of these symptoms, you likely do not need to worry about your J&J vaccine.
Q: How Does the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Affect the Bay Area?
A: A joint statement by the Bay Area's county health officers on April 24 recommends that the region's health providers should resume administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine "to prevent community spread and severe illness and death from COVID-19." This means you'll see the J&J vaccine being offered at appointments around the Bay Area once more.
Getting Your Vaccine Through a Health System Like Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health are administering vaccines in the Bay Area with supplies issued directly from the state rather than the county. You might hear these organizations referred to as multicounty entities (or MCEs), i.e. health systems that serve multiple counties.
Kaiser Permanente says it will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible people "regardless of their health plan membership." To schedule an appointment through Kaiser Permanente as a non-member, you'll need to obtain a medical record number (also referred to as an MRN) first via phone to be able to then go online, use the number and make your appointment.
On its site, Kaiser Permanente has a step-by-step process for non-members wishing to get their COVID-19 vaccine through Kaiser. It says non-members can also call them at 866-454-8855 but notes that "vaccine supply is extremely limited, demand is high, and wait times may be long."
Sutter Health says if you're not currently a Sutter patient and wish to become one to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine once you become eligible, you can visit the Sutter Health sign-up page and enroll.
I Have a Health Condition or a Disability. What About My COVID-19 Vaccine?
Now that everyone ages 16 and over is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in California, this eligibility is no longer a factor — but there may still be specific vaccination opportunities within your community that focus on accessibility for disabled Californians seeking the vaccine.
Do I Have to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine in My County?
Proving that you live or work in a particular place is most likely to be relevant if you're getting your vaccine through the county system.
Bay Area counties get their vaccine supplies from the state, and a county's public health department will distribute them from there. As a general rule, because of limited vaccine supply, counties are limiting those vaccine appointments to people who either live or work in that county. So if you get your vaccine appointment through the county in which you live or work, be sure to take note of whether there's residency or employment verification required, and bring it to your appointment if so.
What if you live and work in two different counties? Bay Area counties are vaccinating people who live or work in that county, which means you could live in, say, Contra Costa County but commute to work in Alameda County, and still get vaccinated by Alameda County.
When you find and schedule appointments for a vaccination site through the state's My Turn tool, however, you don't need to be a resident or a worker in that particular county where the vaccination site is based.
You'll see an "IMPORTANT NOTE" on My Turn once you get to the appointment scheduling stage, which warns you that because some clinics offered to you might be outside your county of residence, you should check that county's "official government website to make sure you are eligible to be vaccinated in that County, otherwise your appointment could be cancelled." Although it's still a good idea to check a county's rules, a California Department of Public Health spokesperson says this note is more to reflect "the minority of clinics" that restrict vaccination to county residents. So you shouldn't worry too much about it.
Health systems like Kaiser Permanente get their vaccine supplies direct from the state, and because they’re not a part of the county system, they can also schedule patients for an appointment in a county even if they don’t live or work in that county.
How Is My County Vaccinating Its Residents and Workers?
Remember, all California counties are now vaccinating all residents and workers ages 16 and older.
Marin residents without internet access can call 833-641-1988 (Marin says that people eligible to get help from this call center are ages 65 or older, living with disabilities and ages 18 or older, in need of home care or personal assistance, need language interpretation (including ASL), have limited or no internet access or need help arranging transportation.
Call the San Francisco call center designed to help people who are 65 and older and those with disabilities who are unable to easily access the internet or schedule an appointment through their provider: 628-652-2700.
No similar issues have been reported for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. A similar issue has occurred in Europe with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not authorized in the U.S. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca use a different type of vaccine system than Pfizer and Moderna. Read more about the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Remember that if you're making an appointment for someone who's under 18, make sure the vaccine offered is the Pfizer vaccine. This vaccine was previously available for young people ages 16+, and has now been expanded to ages 12-15, who will be able to get their shot in California starting May 13. Read more about making a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine appointment for those aged 12-15,
As eligibility expands, more and more appointments will hopefully be clearly labeled at the booking stage with their vaccine type so that you can be sure.
The CDC says that you should "get any COVID-19 vaccine that is available when you are eligible," and that you shouldn't wait for one specific type over another. All currently authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, says the CDC, and they don't recommend one vaccine over another. So basically: Take the shot you're offered at the appointment you're able to get. Even if you try to "pick" one, you'll probably find that difficult to do, given low supply and that appointments often aren't offered by vaccine type.
If you get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, you'll need a second dose three weeks (21 days) later. If you get the Moderna vaccine, you'll need a second dose one month (28 days) later. You don't need a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
What about getting your second shot? If you weren't invited to schedule your second shot when you scheduled your first one, make sure you find out at your first appointment how you should schedule that second dose. Some sites will give you the sign-up information on the spot, and others will follow up with you afterward (for example, by email) to arrange your second dose. Try not to leave your first appointment without getting that information. If you're unsure how to schedule your second dose after you leave, contact the site or organization who gave you your first dose.
If you've been given a special code through a local community organization for scheduling a COVID-19 vaccination, be sure to input it in the "Access Code" (formerly "Accessibility Code") section on My Turn. The California Department of Public Health says your code can make "appointments at targeted clinics available."
These access codes are part of the state's drive to make sure underserved groups in California get vaccinated. For example, per a CDPH spokesperson, a particular code "could be used by a community-based organization to make appointments for the 65+ population in impacted communities."
This means the codes are intended to make appointments available only for those people they're designed to reach. There were, however, reports of Bay Area codes intended for eligible people in Black and Latino communities being circulated among and misused by people living outside those areas. As a result, the California Department of Public Health has now changed the way these codes work, and now only the individual who was provided with the code will be able to complete the appointment scheduling process online, to prevent misuse.
If you have a code but it wasn't directly provided to you by a community group or a health care provider — or you don't know which groups it's intended to serve — by using it, you are taking appointment availability away from the person it was meant for. (And if that person has already made an appointment using that code, the state now says you won't even be able to schedule an appointment with it anyway.)