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.
Statewide, current vaccine eligibility is as follows — but click here to see where your individual Bay Area County is at right now, as some counties are further along in vaccinating various groups. Just because the state says you're technically eligible for your vaccine doesn't mean your county is actually ready to provide it.
People in California's Phase 1A:
Health care workers, with priority given to those providing acute care, workers at psychiatric and correctional facility hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and those working in similar settings for older or medically vulnerable individuals
Long-term care facility residents
People in California's Phase 1B (as supplies allow)
Individuals 65 and older
Agriculture and food workers
Education and childcare workers
Emergency services workers
The quickest way to see if you're currently eligible for the vaccine and able to make an appointment is to input your details into the state's My Turn site. If you're unsure whether your job is included in one of these eligible industries above, take a look at the state's Updated Vaccine Allocation guide, which goes into more detail about which types of roles are included. (If you believe your job makes you eligible for vaccination under these guidelines, you should also talk to your employer to see if they have a plan for vaccinating their workers.)
In late January, California announced that after vaccinating people in Phase 1A and Phase 1B the state would then shift away from its previous plans of phases based on job type, exposure risk, health conditions and age — in favor of a system that will be primarily age-based.
First off, if you've found yourself confused by the information (or lack of it) out there about how eligible people can get a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, you're not imagining it.
The lack of clear instructions around scheduling has caused frustration and concern for many over the last few weeks, and 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 here.
The good news: It looks like the Bay Area's vaccination system is slowly becoming easier to navigate, as more information becomes available and more details about making appointments — and more online sign-up pages — become available. The state's My Turn tool (see below) will also be expanding its reach into more California counties, as health insurer Blue Shield takes over the system and My Turn — and not your county — eventually becomes the place to find and schedule everybody's vaccinations.
The less-good news: Vaccine supply across the state remains low, which means that vaccination appointments are still hard to find at many locations. It also means that 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. This situation will hopefully improve soon if vaccines supply changes in California. But in the meantime, if you're confused by a lack of available appointments — it's not you.
Don't assume you'll be proactively contacted about getting your COVID-19 vaccine. If you're eligible, 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. Talk to Your Health Care Provider, If You Have One
If you're currently eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine and you have health insurance, talk to your provider first about how you should get your shot. If you don't have health insurance but get medical care through a city/county-run provider, you can check with that location.
Remember that your health care provider is doubtless getting a lot of queries from patients like you right now, and it could take a while to get an answer.
As well as trying to talk with your health care provider directly, check the website for your provider, and sign up for their vaccine notifications if they're offering them.
2. Check Your County's Information
If you're eligible but getting the vaccine through your current provider isn't an option — or if you don't have health insurance or a regular health care provider — check with your county (find yours in our list) to see if they have recommendations on where to obtain your COVID-19 vaccine, or suggest specific locations. These vaccination appointments will be based on the doses that the state has supplied your county with.
To make sure your county reaches out to you about how to make an appointment if you're eligible for vaccination, sign up for your county's notifications if they're offering them (find yours in our list.)
3. Use My Turn
My Turn is the state's tool that allows Californians to see instantly if they're currently eligible for the vaccine — and to sign up for notifications about eligibility and future appointment scheduling.
The state now says that if you're near San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego, "you may be able to schedule your appointment today" using My Turn, and that they're "adding appointments to My Turn daily, and expanding statewide."
My Turn will assess your eligibility based on the county you live in, and which groups that county is vaccinating right now. If you're eligible, the site will show you available appointments within 50 miles of the location you provide.
After you confirm your eligibility, you can also input other locations to see what sites are available further 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.
Right now, CDPH says My Turn can offer Bay Area applicants appointments at the Moscone Center mass vaccination site and the FEMA-run site at Oakland Coliseum, and that more locations will soon become available through My Turn.
You may also find that your county requests you sign up for an appointment through My Turn; for example, San Francisco asks that its residents find and make appointments at the Moscone Center site using My Turn.
My Turn is now available in the following eight languages, which you can select in the first drop-down menu: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Korean and Arabic.
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 1-833-422-4255 (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 via the California COVID-19 Hotline. Callers needing information in other languages will be connected to translation service that offers 254 other languages.
The California Department of Public Health says that more vaccination appointments will become available near you as more counties sign up to register their vaccination locations and availability with the state, which will have them show up through My Turn. The plan, says the spokesperson, is for the state to eventually administrate a "state-directed allocation system" for vaccines, which will also mean that county lines "shouldn't be as big of a factor" as they currently are for people trying to make an appointment.
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 "Accessibility Code" section on My Turn. Find more important information about vaccine accessibility codes here below.
Sign up for notifications and check if you're currently able to make an appointment (if you're a health care worker or 65 and older) through My Turn here.
4. Call Your Local Pharmacy
Call your local pharmacy to see if they're offering the COVID-19 vaccine and to whom. Several pharmacies are also offering online appointments, although please note that low vaccine supply means that available appointments are looking scarce right now.
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.
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 multi-county entities (or MCEs), ie. 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 MRM) first via phone to be able to then go online, use the number and make your appointment. On its site, Kaiser Permanente recommends non-members call them at 866-454-8855 but notes that "vaccine supply is extremely limited, demand is high, and wait times may be long."
On Twitter, Mission Local writer Joe Eskenazi has also recommended the following contact numbers for Kaiser Permanente — their national call center and the number to make an appointment in Northern California:
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 this sign-up page and enroll.
However, Sutter Health has been canceling second-dose vaccine appointments through March 9 due to a lack of supply. If you're affected by these cancellations, read our story here. Remember: If you're attempting to find your second dose elsewhere instead of waiting for Sutter to reschedule you, make sure you know (or find out) whether you received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for your first dose, to be able to match it for your second.
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 the residency or employment verification required, and bring it to your appointment.
What if you live and work in two different counties? If you're eligible for the vaccine because of the job you do (e.g. working in education and child care), all Bay Area counties are vaccinating people who live or work in that county. This means, for example, you could live in Contra Costa County but commute to that work in Alameda County, and still be vaccinated by Alameda. Check your county's specific rules in our county-by-county list.
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. (A California Department of Public Health spokesperson says that as the state moves more towards a "state-directed allocation system" for vaccines, where you live or work eventually "shouldn't be as big of a factor" as it currently is.)
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.
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 "Accessibility Code" section on My Turn. The California Department of Public Health says your code can make "appointments at targeted clinics available."
These accessibility 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, recent 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.)
How Is My County Vaccinating its Residents and Workers?
Who is currently being vaccinated: Berkeley Public Health is vaccinating its health care workers, residents ages 65+ and those who live or work in Berkeley who are currently employed in grocery stores, agriculture workers, convenience stores and in-person education or child care settings.
Eligible because of your work? The city of Berkeley is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in Berkeley.
Who is currently being vaccinated: Contra Costa County is currently vaccinating its health care workers and adults 65 and older, and as of Feb. 18 has begun vaccinating those who work in the education and child care sector, food and agriculture workers, and emergency services workers.
Eligible because of your work? Contra Costa is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in the county.
Who is currently being vaccinated: Marin County is administering vaccines to health care workers and residents 65 and older, and starting Feb. 24, workers in education and child care, emergency services and food and agriculture are being vaccinated too.
Eligible because of your work? Marin is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in the county.
Who is currently being vaccinated: Napa County is currently vaccinating health care workers, plus people 65 and older and workers in education and child care, emergency services and food and agriculture.
Eligible because of your work? Napa is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in the county.
City and County of San Francisco COVID-19 Vaccines
Who is currently being vaccinated: San Francisco is vaccinating its health care workers and people 65 and older, and as of Feb. 24, is now also vaccinating education and child care workers, emergency services workers and food and agriculture workers.
Eligible because of your work? San Francisco is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in San Francisco.
Who is currently being vaccinated: Santa Clara is vaccinating health care workers and residents 65 and older, and county officials announced that the latter group can now get vaccinated for COVID-19 at any health care provider or vaccination site, regardless of their health insurance. As of Feb. 28, Santa Clara County is also vaccinating workers in education and child care, emergency services and the food and agriculture industries.
Eligible because of your work? Santa Clara is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in the county.
Who is currently being vaccinated: Solano County's vaccination webpage says that the county is still vaccinating health care workers and residents 75 and older, and also seniors 65-74 "with medical conditions." A county spokesperson says it has also begun vaccinating teachers last week "working in schools that are open or soon will be open," and will be opening appointments to child care workers on March 1. The county says that food and agricultural workers will be eligible for vaccination in the week of March 1. (Note: When searching for appointments, My Turn says that Solano workers in education and child care, emergency services and the food and agriculture industries are all eligible for vaccination now through that system.)
Eligible because of your work? Solano County is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in the county.
Who is currently being vaccinated: Sonoma County is vaccinating health care workers, people 65 and older and workers in education and child care, agriculture and food manufacturing and emergency services
Eligible because of your work? Sonoma is vaccinating eligible workers who live or work in the county, but non-residents might find that some clinics are limiting appointments to residents, says a county spokesperson.
What About These Mass Vaccination Sites I've Heard About?
If you've been hearing about high-volume vaccination sites planned around the Bay Area, several of them are now open. Right now it's most likely you'll be able to make an appointment — or eventually be invited to do so — for one of these bigger sites by signing up with your county for their notifications or by signing up with the state through My Turn.
Heard of a big new vaccination site near you? Let us know.
What Should I Do If I'm Not Eligible Yet?
Even if you're not eligible to get vaccinated right now, you can now sign up for the state's My Turn notification tool, which promises to let you know "if it's your turn to get vaccinated and schedule vaccination appointments" via email or text notifications.
The California Department of Public Health says that a "second phase of that system will help counties, cities and others run mass vaccination events, and this "will include a way for eligible members of the public to schedule their vaccination appointments at those events." So, if you hope to eventually get your COVID-19 vaccine at one of those mass vaccination sites, and because the My Turn system is evolving, it sounds like it's especially worth your time signing up for My Turn now.
California's vaccination program is currently partway into what was originally called Phase 1B — which was meant to be followed by more phases and tiers based on job type, exposure risk, health conditions and age.
But in late January, officials announced that after Phase 1B, the state would scrap these subsequent phases and instead adopt a system that would be primarily age-based. The new system, said Gov. Gavin Newsom, "will allow us to scale up much more quickly."
Those now-obsolete subsequent phases included many essential workers, as well as people ages 16 to 49 with underlying health conditions or disabilities. After an outcry from disability advocates, the state has confirmed that starting March 15, people ages 16-64 who are disabled or have health conditions that put them at high risk from the coronavirus will be eligible for vaccinations.
Among those included are people with certain cancer, heart, lung and kidney conditions, as well as pregnant women, those with Down syndrome, organ transplant recipients and the severely obese.
A document from the California Department of Public Health being sent to all vaccine distribution sites and local health agencies states that health care providers "may use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals ages 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19" from certain conditions. See the full list here. If you believe you may be eligible on this front, and you have a regular health care provider, try talking to them to learn more information about this element.
California has yet to release details on what the age brackets are in its new tiered system. However, on the My Turn sign-up site, users are asked to input age ranges of under 16, 16-49, 50-64, 65-74, and 75 and older.
Ask Your Question: What Else Do You Want to Know?
A version of this story was originally published on Jan. 15.