Updated Feb. 12
While California started vaccinating health care workers and other high-risk residents in December, there are still a lot of questions about who will get vaccinated when.
The state’s vaccination roll-out has been delayed, and county health departments say they don’t have enough vaccines right now to cover all of the priority groups laid out by the state.
The California Department of Public Health recently announced that people 65 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine, but some counties are not yet immunizing this group due to a shortage of doses. As of Jan. 25, this age group is being prioritized in the next vaccination category, immediately after health care workers and long-term care facility residents. People 65 and older were originally in a lower tier but have been moved up.
On Feb. 12 the state also announced that people with some severe health conditions would be eligible to start receiving vaccinations starting March 15.
Some counties are asking residents to sign up to be notified about vaccine availability. Health systems are identifying patients to receive the vaccine, but whether your doctor will call you varies heavily depending on supply and demand.
There is an independently run directory of clinics and health systems administering the vaccine, including information about how to make an appointment. This directory was created by volunteers who are calling individual locations every 36 hours to find out what vaccines are available and for whom. CapRadio has not verified the information on this site.
Below, find our best answers to how the state is handling the roll-out (see the state's vaccine website here) but know that the details are changing. We will continue to update this page as new information comes out.
- Who is eligible to get vaccinated right now?
- How can people age 65 and older get the vaccine?
- What has changed in the state’s tier system since Jan. 25?
- How does this change affect people under 65 with disabilities?
- Does this announcement ‘bump’ anyone back?
- Can I sign up anywhere to get a vaccine or to be notified when one is available?
- What groups is the state recommending get the vaccine, and in what order?
- Do you need to be a resident of a county to get the vaccine there?
- How do underlying conditions impact when you get the vaccine, and what qualifies?
- What is the state’s best estimate on when people outside of these groups will have access to a vaccine?
- How is California deciding who gets the vaccine first?
- How are counties identifying people who are eligible for vaccination during each stage?
- I’m a health worker or a member of another priority group and I haven’t gotten a vaccine. What should I do?
- How many vaccine doses have been distributed in California so far?
- Are there any safety issues with the vaccine?
- What are the known side effects so far, both short and long term?
Have a question that isn't answered below? Let us know here.
In many counties, health providers and long-term care facility residents who were first in line have already been vaccinated. California is currently in Phase 1B, which includes teachers, emergency services employees, food and agricultural workers and people over 65. Initially, only people over 75 were in this tier, but people 65 and older were bumped up on Jan. 25
But what tier your county is vaccinating depends heavily on how many doses they have on hand. Some health systems may still be limiting vaccinations to patients 75 and older due to a lack of doses.
As of Jan. 25, the state is prioritizing all people 65 and older to receive the vaccine, though some counties are still only vaccinating frontline workers because of a low supply of doses.
In many counties, there isn’t a place to sign up for a vaccine appointment or walk in to get a vaccine. Counties are selecting people for vaccination as they have doses available. Some health systems are vaccinating elderly patients. If you are 65 or older, you will likely be contacted by either your health care provider or your county health department when vaccine doses are available.
Sacramento County is currently allowing people older than 65, as well as education and food and agricultural workers, to sign up and be notified when vaccine appointments are available. Members of the public can sign up on the health department site, email COVIDVaccine@saccounty.net or call the hotline at 916-875-3400.
There is also a website for people 65 and older in Sacramento County to sign up for vaccine appointments here.
Here are some vaccine information sites for other nearby counties:
- Amador County
- Contra Costa County
- El Dorado County
- Placer County
- San Joaquin County
- Solano County
- Sutter County
- Yolo County
As of Feb. 11, CVS is scheduling vaccination appointments for people 65 and older at 100 locations in California. You can check availability and sign up for an appointment here. Walk-ins are not accepted.
As of Feb. 12, RiteAid is scheduling vaccination appointments for people 65 and older at some locations in California. You can check availability and sign up for an appointment here. Walk-ins are not accepted.
As of Feb. 9, Walgreens is scheduling vaccination appointments for people 65 and older at some locations in California. You can check availability and sign up for an appointment here. Walk-ins are not accepted.
On Monday, Jan. 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that vaccine priority will be determined only by age, not by occupation or underlying condition. This means that after everyone in Phase 1A and the first tier of Phase 1B has been vaccinated — people over 65, food and agricultural workers, educators and public safety employees — the state will announce that people in certain age brackets are eligible.
On Feb. 12 state health officials announced the people with some severe health conditions will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting March 15.
This means that people who were originally in the second tier of phase 1B and in phase 1C are no longer being prioritized. Those groups included:
- Workers in homeless shelters, jails and prisons
- Workers in transportation and manufacturing
- Workers in communications, defense, financial services and government functions
People under 65 with disabilities will be eligible for the vaccine based on their age group. Under the new priority system, a 50-year-old with a disability and a 50-year-old without a disability will be in the same priority group.
California disability advocates are pushing for this group to be included in the first tier of Phase 1B, alongside seniors and frontline workers.The state has not issued a formal response to that request.
This announcement means that people in high-risk jobs that the state had originally marked for vaccine priority will now be vaccinated based only on their age. So someone who is in a high-risk sector but in their 30’s is likely further down the timeline than someone who is 55 and not in a frontline occupation.
California has quietly launched a statewide website where residents can sign up to be notified when they can get a vaccine in a number of counties.
The pilot site, called MyTurn, is a work in progress and hasn’t yet been promoted by the state. For now it only offers appointment scheduling in Los Angeles and Sandiego counties, for health care workers and those 65 and older.
The site is expected to improve as more counties get connected to the platform.
When vaccines are more widely available, people will also be able to go to doctors’ offices and pharmacies to get immunized.
After everyone in Phase 1A and the first tier of Phase 1B is vaccinated, the state will announce new eligibility groups by age. Currently, people age 65 and older and certain frontline workers are eligible for the vaccine. The state has not announced which age group will be next.
Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are getting the vaccine first. That process started in December 2020.There are three tiers within that phase, sorted by what type of facility the worker is in:
- Workers in acute care, psychiatric and correctional facility hospitals
- Workers in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and similar settings for older or medically vulnerable individuals
- Residents in these settings
- Paramedics, EMTs and others providing emergency medical services
- Workers in dialysis centers
- Workers in Intermediate care facilities for people who need non-continuous nursing supervision and supportive care
- Home health care and in-home supportive services
- Community health workers, including promotoras
- Public health field staff
- Primary Care clinics, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Centers, correctional facility clinics, and urgent care clinics
- Specialty clinics
- Laboratory workers
- Dental and other oral health clinics
- Pharmacy staff not working in settings at higher tiers
The state is recommending that hospitals and health departments administer vaccines to people in Phase 1A and Phase 1B concurrently during January and February.
As of Jan. 25, California has moved people ages 65 and older into Tier 1.
- Individuals 65 and older (changed Jan. 25 to add people 65-74)
- Workers in education, childcare, emergency services*, and food and agriculture.
*Emergency services includes law enforcement, corrections, search and rescue, 911 call center employees, workers in disaster prevention, workers maintaining equipment supporting these groups, and workers responding to child, elder, and dependent adult abuse.
Each county is making their own decisions on who to vaccinate and whether to factor in what county someone lives in — there is no statewide guidance on this. In Sacramento County, people are being offered the vaccine based on where they work, or where they are a patient. So for example, if you live in Yolo County but you work or are a resident at a Sacramento County long-term care facility, you can still get vaccinated in Sacramento.
On Feb. 12 state health officials announced that people 16 to 64 years old with certain severe health conditions would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting March 15.
Here’s a list of those health conditions, according to the state’s health department:
- Cancer, current with debilitated or immunocompromised state
- Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
- Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
- Down syndrome
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Sickle cell disease
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (excludes hypertension)
- Severe obesity (Body Mass Index greater than 40 kg/m2)
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5%
The state’s guidance also says that those in that age group could be eligible if, “as a result of developmental or other severe high-risk disability” the individual could die from COVID-19, stop receiving health care services that are “vital to their well-being and survival” or if getting COVID-19 care would be too challenging.
Medical providers will have the discretion to determine a patient’s eligibility. State health officials said the list of eligible conditions could change based on scientific data and analysis.
What is the state’s best estimate on when people outside of these groups will have access to a vaccine?
The state’s vaccine website says that Spring 2021 is the “best estimate” for the general public getting vaccinated, but that may change depending on vaccine production and how quickly other vaccines become available.
State health officials have said they expect the general public will have access to vaccines in early summer.
California has a Drafting Guidelines Workgroup that’s developing guidance for how to prioritize allocation of vaccines. This group is housed within the California Department of Public Health and chaired by the chief of the department’s immunization branch and a past president of the National Medical Association. Its membership is made up of leaders from hospitals, academic institutions and health departments throughout the state.
There is also a Community Vaccine Advisory Committee made of representatives from dozens of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, California Teachers Association and Disability Rights California, that looks over the state’s recommendations. The group holds virtual, public meetings to discuss priority groups and the reports back to the state.
The state is also trying to monitor equity in vaccine coverage by comparing what percentage of people have been vaccinated in vulnerable communities versus the percent vaccinated in less vulnerable communities. The committee has proposed using a tool called the Healthy Places Index to track these trends.
Since the first tier of Phase 1A covers hospital workers and both residents and staff at long-term care facilities, counties are largely relying on the institutions receiving the doses to create a list of employees or clients that need the vaccine, and to track who’s gotten it and who hasn’t.
City and county health departments should be doing outreach to other providers who qualify for Phase 1A, such as behavioral health workers and dentists, through social media and professional societies.
The next few tiers will involve working with schools to locate educators, sending teams out to fields to find farmworkers and "combing the internet” for home health providers, urgent care providers and others who need to be added to lists for vaccination, according to acting state health officer Dr. Erica Pan.
Counties are vaccinating people based on where they work, not where they live. So for example, a nurse who lives in Yolo County but works in Sacramento County would be vaccinated in Sacramento.
I’m a health worker or a member of another priority group and I haven’t gotten a vaccine. What should I do?
Reach out to your local health department, they should be tracking calls that come in from eligible residents. If you’re a health provider that is part of a professional society, they may have additional information.
Find contact information for every California county health department here.
Here are the latest figures from the California Department of Public Health:
Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press event Monday, Jan. 4, that distribution has gone too slowly, and that he’s making efforts to speed the process such as allowing dentists to administer the vaccine after they take a special training. On Friday Jan. 8, the state issued a new rule giving counties the flexibility to offer vaccines to lower-priority groups if demand subsides in the current groups, or doses are about to expire. On Jan. 11, Newsom announced plans for mass vaccination sites in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Scientists at both the federal and state level have determined that the vaccine is safe and should be administered — except not to children under 16, people who are pregnant or people who are allergic to any of the ingredients in the drug. Though there have been documented side effects, vaccine experts say the benefits of taking the shot outweigh any potential negative consequences.
California created a Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which began meeting in October to determine the safety of vaccines being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The group notes side effects associated with both vaccines during clinical trials, but stated these were “not at a level of concern to change the recommendation that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”
The group recommended that the federal government continue to monitor for side effects related to the vaccine. Neither therapeutic has been tested on pregnant women or children under age 16. People who are allergic to any component of either vaccine should not be vaccinated. There are special considerations for people who are immunocompromised.
In clinical trials, adverse reactions to the Moderna vaccine included pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, soreness, chills, nausea and fever.
Data from the Pfizer clinical trials found the following most common short-term side effects:
- Pain at injection site (84.1%)
- Fatigue (62.9%)
- Headache (55.1%)
- Muscle pain (38.3%)
- Chills (31.9%)
- Joint pain (23.6%)
- Fever (14.2%)
- Injection site swelling (10.5%)
- Injection site redness (9.5%)
- Nausea (1.1%)
- Malaise (0.5%)
- Lymphadenopathy (0.3%)
In clinical trials, 64 of 38,000 people who received the Pfizer vaccine experienced lymphadenopathy (a disease of the lymph nodes), lasting for 10 days on average, which the CDC says is “plausibly related” to the vaccine. Four participants developed a type of facial paralysis called Bell’s palsy, which the CDC stated was not likely caused by the shot.
There were no documented severe allergic reactions among the 38,000 participants in the Pfizer trial or the 30,000 participants in the Moderna phase three trial. Still, the CDC says health workers should not immunize individuals with a known history of severe allergic reaction to any component of either vaccine.
Since vaccine roll-out began, 29 people in the U.S. have experienced a severe allergic reaction, and none have died. These reactions were from both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, and were not clustered geographically. A recent CDC report estimated the rate of anaphylaxis at 11 cases per 1 million doses given, which is higher than the flu shot. The majority of anaphylactic reactions happen within the first 15 minutes of the shot, so health workers are urged to have epinephrine on hand and monitor the patient after immunizing.
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