Q: When will I be able to get a vaccine?
A: The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. It can be obtained at pharmacies, community clinics, and at healthcare providers including El Camino Health.
Q: Are you offering the vaccine to patients of all ages?
- For anyone 18 and older, vaccines are available throughout the community and at El Camino Health's Outpatient Pharmacy and may be scheduled online. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are available for this age group.
- For children 12 to 17, vaccines are available at El Camino Health's Outpatient Pharmacy with a parent, guardian, or legal representative's consent and may be scheduled online. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for this age group.
- For children 5 to 11, please contact your pediatrician or visit the Santa Clara County vaccine website to make an appointment. A smaller dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for this age group.
Q: When can I get my COVID-19 booster shot?
A: Currently, all adults 18 years and older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago are eligible for an initial booster shot after their initial series (three months if they are moderately to severely compromised). In addition, patients ages 12-17 are also eligible to get the initial COVID-19 booster if they received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 at least five months ago (three months if they are moderately to severely compromised), per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition, the CDC recommends second booster shots for the following patients:
- Moderately to severely immunocompromised patients and patients over the age of 50 who received an initial COVID-19 booster dose at least four months ago.
- Adults 18 and over who received a primary vaccine and initial booster dose of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at least four months ago.
Q: I am immunocompromised, can I get the COVID-19 booster shot?
A: Patients who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may be eligible for an additional primary shot or booster depending on which vaccine they received:
- Patients ages five and older who received Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should get an additional primary shot 28 days after their second shot. Patients ages 12 and older can receive the initial Pfizer-BioNTech booster three months after their additional primary shot. Patients ages 18 and older can get an initial booster shot of any COVID-19 vaccine three months after their additional primary shot.
- Patients ages 18 and older who received the Moderna vaccine should get an additional primary shot 28 days after their second shot and an initial Moderna booster given three months after their additional primary shot.
- Patients ages 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get an initial booster shot of any COVID-19 vaccine two months after their first shot.
In addition, patients who are moderately to severely immunocompromised who received their initial booster dose at least four months ago are eligible for a second booster dose.
Q: Who qualifies for a COVID-19 booster shot?
A: All adults 18 years and older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago (three months if there are moderately to severely immunocompromised) are eligible for an initial booster shot after their initial series. Patients ages 12-17 are also eligible to receive the initial COVID-19 booster if they received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 at least five months ago (three months if there are moderately to severely immunocompromised).
For people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, initial booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18 and older and were vaccinated two or more months ago. In addition, adults who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and booster at least four months ago may now receive a second booster.
Q: Can I get a booster if I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
A: Adults who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least two months ago are eligible for an initial booster. They also qualify for a second booster if it has been at least four months since they received the vaccine and initial booster.
Q: How do I schedule a vaccine at El Camino Health?
A: Please use our online scheduler to make an appointment.
Q: How do I cancel my vaccination appointment?
A: If you have a myCare account, sign into myCare, click on "Visits", and on the vaccine appointment, use the option to cancel. Otherwise, to cancel your appointment, please call 408-871-7460 Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Q: How do we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective?
A: Each vaccine has undergone a stringent review process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — which is globally respected for its scientific standards of vaccine safety, effectiveness and quality — before it received the agency's Emergency Use Authorization. This means the FDA has determined there is substantial evidence that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing a COVID-19 infection, particularly infection leading to hospitalization or death. In addition to clinical trials, we now have data gathered from the more than 560 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date in the United States. Both the trials and the data from actual use clearly demonstrate that the vaccines are both safe and effective.
Q: I heard the COVID-19 vaccine won't prevent me from getting COVID-19. So why should I be vaccinated?
A: It is a common misconception that vaccines prevent individuals from contracting an illness. Vaccines train the body's immune system to recognize and effectively fight viruses and bacteria. When the body is exposed to a virus after being vaccinated against it, it is immediately ready to fight the illness. Because the body can respond more quickly, you are less likely to experience symptoms of the illness, especially severe and life-threatening ones.
Based on clinical trials and observations following the administration of more than 560 million doses, we know the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus. The populations who continue to face severe illness and death from COVID-19 are those that are unvaccinated.
Q: If I already had COVID-19, do I still need to get vaccinated?
A: Yes. While doctors do not yet know how long you will be protected after having COVID-19, they do know it is possible to contract the virus again. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from severe illness, hospitalization or death from COVID-19. In addition, preliminary data shows that natural antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection do not provide as much protection as vaccines.
Q: Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
A: No. None of the vaccines currently available uses a live version of the virus, so a person who receives any of these vaccines cannot contract COVID-19 from the vaccination.
Q: If I receive the vaccine, what side effects can I expect?
A: Each COVID-19 vaccine has similar potential side effects, including fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and pain at the injection site. But none of the reported side effects are serious and long-lasting, and none are nearly as serious as the long list of potential complications of COVID-19, which include hospitalization and death.
Q: Will the vaccine affect my DNA?
A: No. The COVID-19 vaccines do not affect DNA. The vaccines train the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the virus.
Q: Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant, want to get pregnant or am breastfeeding?
A: Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that pregnant women get a COVID-19 vaccine after research showed that the vaccine does not pose additional risks for mothers or babies. In addition, the CDC has stated the vaccines pose no risk for breastfeeding women or their babies. In fact, studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccine provides protection to infants through breast milk. There is also no evidence that any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility issues.
If you are pregnant, please speak with your healthcare provider about whether the vaccine is recommended for you. If your doctor determines you should wait to receive a vaccine, you may defer your vaccination until you are no longer pregnant.
Q: Thousands of adverse events from the COVID-19 vaccines have been reported to VAERS. Why are we not concerned about these reports?
A: The function of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which is co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is commonly misunderstood and is often the source of confusion. VAERS does not function as a reporting system for adverse events caused by vaccination. In fact, VAERS cannot and does not determine whether a vaccine caused a reaction or side effect at all.
A report to VAERS means only that an adverse event occurred sometime after vaccination. If a vaccinated individual develops a headache, for example, the headache may be reported to VAERS and recorded in the VAERS database. But VAERS does not determine whether the headache was caused by the vaccine or whether it developed coincidentally.
At this point, there is no information to suggest COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe. As of March 30, 2022, more than 217 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, and more than 97 million people received a booster dose. We have real-world evidence — in addition to clinical trial data — to indicate these vaccines are safe, and that adverse reactions to them are extremely rare.
Q: What serious adverse events have been reported after the COVID-19 vaccine and how often do these occur?
A: Hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and have demonstrated that the vaccines are safe and effective. Reports of adverse events following vaccination are rare and do not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused the medical issue. According to the CDC, the following are the rare adverse events that have been reported as of March 30, 2022:
- More than 559 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered from December 14, 2020 to March 28, 2022. Out of those cases, the mortality rate attributed to (not necessarily caused by) the vaccine is 0.0024%.
- Anaphylaxis is rare, but has occurred in five people per million vaccinated in the U.S.
- 2,323 cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported as of March 24, 2022.
- Out of 18.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there have been around 310 preliminary reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
- There have been 60 confirmed reports of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome developing in patients who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Q: How can vaccines put an end to the pandemic?
A: The more people who are fully vaccinated, the harder it will be for the virus to spread from person to person and mutate into other, more infectious strains such as the delta variant. The COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be highly protective against all variants so far, and states with high vaccination rates have been able to dramatically reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
Today, data show that unvaccinated populations are causing the surging spread of the virus, and we are seeing that those who are not vaccinated are overwhelmingly the ones hospitalized or dying from COVID-19. A small number of breakthrough cases have resulted in fully vaccinated individuals getting sick with COVID-19, but these cases almost never lead to severe illness.
The bottom line is that getting vaccinated is the only way to end the pandemic. It is also the only way to protect yourself and others from getting severely ill from COVID-19. The sooner we all get vaccinated, the sooner the pandemic will be over.