California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Information Void

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Health care personnel dressed in protective gear help inoculate people with the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 22, 2021 at the Fairplex in Pomona, California, one of five mass vaccination sites that opened across Los Angeles County this week. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

California’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been…confusing. Many people have been writing into KQED with basic questions about eligibility or where they go to get vaccinated. Our engagement editor has been fielding those questions. But she’s not the only one trying to fill the vaccination information void.

Guest: Carly Severn, KQED senior engagement editor

Episode transcript here.

Carly answered the top five questions our audience wanted to know. You can read about those questions here. Plus, submit your own question for KQED below, and learn more  about how to find a COVID-19 vaccine appointment near you.

Am I Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine Now?

Statewide, current vaccine eligibility is as follows:

  • Health care workers
  • Long-term care residents
  • People over 65
  • Those at risk of exposure at work in education and child care, emergency services or food and agriculture.

As for who's next, in late January California announced it would shift from a statewide vaccine eligibility system that was based on job type, exposure risk and age to one that will be primarily age-based. Read more.

Find more information about vaccine eligibility here, and check where your Bay Area county is at right now, as some counties are further along in vaccinating various groups than others. Which leads us to...

I'm Eligible. So Why Can't I Get an Appointment?

The low availability of vaccines means that just because the state says you're technically eligible for your vaccine doesn't mean your county is actually ready to provide it.

In particular, the addition of people aged 65+ to the state's vaccination priority list doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to schedule a vaccine appointment right now for someone over 65, because limited vaccine supplies mean many counties are still vaccinating its health care workers.

A registered nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine into the arm of a woman in a high school gymnasium
A registered nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine into the arm of a woman at the Corona High School gymnasium in the Riverside County city of Corona, California. on Jan. 15, 2021, a day after California began offering the coronavirus vaccine to residents 65 and older. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

OK, So How Do I Get a Vaccine Appointment?

This is the more complex part. Right now, there's no state-run, statewide dashboard showing you where and how to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. (More on that below.)

Don't assume you'll be proactively contacted about getting your COVID-19 vaccine. If you have an existing health care provider, contact them first to ask them about getting vaccinated. If your provider is not offering vaccines, or you don’t have a provider or health insurance, find your Bay Area county in our list, where you can follow their advice and sign up for any "notify me" tools they might offer. This is how many counties say they'll get in touch with you about eligibility and eventually making your appointment.

You can also try My Turn, the state's tool which now 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."

We also have information about planned mass vaccination sites around the Bay Area, and about how make an appointment with Kaiser Permanente even if you’re not a Kaiser member here.

How Do I Find COVID-19 Vaccination Locations Near Me?

While as yet there's no California-wide appointments system, there is the volunteer-powered VaccinateCA dashboard, which shows vaccination locations near you with current availability and scheduling details.

The VaccinateCA site works by unpaid phone bankers regularly calling hospitals, pharmacies and clinics to update their vaccine status. Organizers say the site has recently been redesigned for speed and ease of use, and it now also has versions in Spanish and Simplified Chinese. Read more about how VaccinateCA works here.

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How Do I Get My Second Vaccine Shot?

Regardless of whether you get the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, both require a second follow-up shot within a certain time period for maximum efficacy.

If for some reason you weren't given information about getting your second shot when you got your first one, contact the provider or location that you got Shot #1 with ASAP, and ask them how to schedule your second appointment. Don't wait!

Ask Your Question: What Else Do You Want to Know?