Getting the COVID-19 vaccination ball rolling in California was a bit rocky, but the process is now well underway. Here is what you need to know.
How many doses have been administered in California?
As of April 11, 2021, California had administered 22,335,947 doses, meaning nearly 40 percent of the state’s adults have had at least one shot (which, in the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, indicates full immunization). Those numbers do not include additional doses which have been administered in certain long term care facilities or by federal institutions operating in the state, such as federal prisons, the Department of Defense, and the Indian Health Service.
Who is eligible now?
All California residents aged 16 and up will be eligible for vaccine starting April 15. In some jurisdictions, local officials have already begun accepting appointments for any adult who wants one.
City-run dispensing locations will get a slight head start, offering shots starting on April 13, and allowing adults who do not qualify under the previous tiers to begin booking appointments as of April 11.
How will I know when it’s my turn?
To receive updates, L.A. County’s Public Health has an email list sign-up on its website. There’s also a quick reference guide to the current eligibility categories available at the department’s website. California also has a statewide eligibility alert system, available at myturn.ca.gov.
Individuals, particularly those with medical conditions that may put them at additional risk, are also encouraged to speak with their doctors for additional advice.
In mid-March, Governor Newsom announced that all California residents over age 16 should be eligible by the last week of April, marking the end of the priority tier system. At that point, vaccine will be available to any adult who books an appointment.
Once I’m eligible, how do I get a COVID vaccination?
Residents can book an appointment online.
Once you verify that you qualify, you’ll be presented with appointments at a variety of settings across the county, including hospitals, community clinics, chain grocery stores and pharmacies, recreation centers, and stadiums.
Booking options include the statewide MyTurn portal, as well as individual booking platforms for pharmacies. You may need to try multiple systems to find an appointment. If nothing is available when you search, remember that the systems do refresh often, and you may see something open up shortly.
You may need to bring some proof of residency, either a state-issued ID, or any of several other qualifying documents. Patients will be asked to provide insurance information if available, but there will be no out-of-pocket payment required to receive a COVID vaccination.
What should I do with the card?
At the first (or, in the case of Johnson & Johnson, only) vaccination appointment, you will be given a record of which COVID vaccination you received and the date. You are going to want to hang on to that card. For two-shot vaccines, both doses must be of the same vaccine and cannot be mixed. Once you’ve got your full immunization, the card will serve as a record.
There is no centralized, national database of COVID-19 vaccinations, so once you’re immunized, that card if your form of proof. Take photos of it immediately and keep those as a backup. Store the physical card somewhere safe, as you would store a birth certificate or passport. Do not laminate the card, because (counter to what some big box stores have been advertising) lamination can actually cause damage to the handwritten marks that need to be preserved and, if it turns out we need to keep getting booster shots in the future, no additional lines of text can be added.
California has not yet adopted a digital “vaccine passport.” A patchwork of vaccine verification systems are cropping up for everything from attending a baseball game to international travel, but, at least for now, you probably do not need to carry the paper card with you on an every day basis.
Can people under age 16 get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Right now, no. The vaccines currently available in the U.S. were only tested on adults and have not yet been confirmed as safe for use in children and younger teens. There are studies underway, and experts estimate that youths aged 12 to 16 may be able to receive shots by the end of this year–important for bringing high schools back to full on-campus learning–and younger children will likely follow, perhaps in early 2022. Data has suggested that, in general, children are less likely to develop serious illnesses due to COVID-19, though there have been at least two pediatric deaths from the virus recorded in L.A. County, as well as several cases of the related syndrome, MIS-C.
What are COVID-19 vaccine “supersites”?
Supersites or “Mega PODs” are locations set up to deliver large numbers of vaccines. These facilities, many of them offering drive-through vaccinations for thousands of people each day, are key to the goal of ramping up distribution.
Los Angeles County vaccine supersites include the Forum, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Cal State Northridge, the Pomona Fairplex, and Dodger Stadium. Disneyland and Petco Park are also among major SoCal supersites.
What role does Blue Shield play?
California selected Blue Shield of California to act as a statewide partner in overhauling the vaccine distribution system. Their role in the system will focus particularly on tracking doses and making sure they’re all accounted for and get to the correct arms.
“We are going to track all vaccines from order to injection,” Paul Markovich, CEO of Blue Shield of California, said in early February. “I’ve told my team, if there’s a truck on the side of the road with the vaccine in it just outside of Fresno we need to know that.”
That tracking and monitoring is expected to be important immediately and over the long term, as larger quantities of vaccine begin to arrive. Blue Shield will also provide oversight of the providers delivering the shots, from major sites to community clinics and mobile distribution points.
Kaiser Permanente, the largest private healthcare provider in California, will also be working with the state to speed distribution.