Q: When will I be able to get a vaccine?
A: The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available throughout the San Francisco Bay Area to anyone 12 and older. It can be obtained at pharmacies, community clinics, and at healthcare providers including El Camino Health.
To get updates on vaccine appointment information, please complete our vaccine email update form.
Q: When can I get my COVID-19 booster shot?
A: Currently, seniors 65 and older, adults 18 and up with underlying medical conditions, live in a long-term care facility, or are at increased risk for COVID-19 due to occupational or institutional settings, can receive a booster shot if it has been six months or their first two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Adults who are 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine can receive a booster two months afterward.
Q: I am immunocompromised, can I get the COVID-19 booster shot?
A: Yes, absolutely. The CDC also recommends people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and are at least 28 days past their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine get the third dose.
Q: Who qualifies for a COVID-19 booster shot?
A: For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at six months or more after their initial series:
- 65 years and older
- Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
- Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
- Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings
For people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago. We strongly encourage patients who are unsure if they meet this criteria to speak with their healthcare provider prior to making an appointment. Please do not make an appointment if you do not meet the criteria.
Q: Can I get the booster if I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
A: If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months ago or longer, you are eligible for a 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 330 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 hundreds of millions of doses, we know the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus — including new strains of the virus such as the delta variant. 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 show that natural antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection do not provide as much protection as the vaccines do against more contagious and aggressive strains of the virus, including the delta variant.
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 August 6, 2021, more than 165 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated. 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 July 31, 2021:
- More than 348 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been given to date in the U.S. The mortality rate attributed to (not necessarily caused by) the COVID-19 vaccines is 0.0018%.
- Anaphylaxis is rare, but has occurred in two to five people per million vaccinated in the U.S.
- 1,148 cases of myocarditis/pericarditis have been reported as of July 19, 2021. The CDC and FDA are monitoring reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, although only 100 preliminary reports have been identified following 12.8 million administered doses.
- There have been 39 confirmed reports of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome developing in the 13 million people who have 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.