faqGroupLookupString: 1. Vaccine Safety
How was it determined that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe?
All authorized COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials with tens of thousands of volunteers of different ages, races, and ethnicities to ensure their safety and effectiveness. The FDA, CDC, and ACIP have all evaluated the trial information and determined the vaccines to be safe, effective, and of high quality. These groups are continuing to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines to make sure even very rare side effects are identified and appropriate precautions are taken.
Did developing the vaccines so quickly compromise safety?
No. None of the normal steps in the vaccine vetting process were skipped in order to quickly develop these vaccines. Rapid development was possible because:
- manufacturing started while the clinical trials were still underway (normally manufacturing doesn’t begin until after completion of the trials);
- mRNA vaccines are faster to produce than other kinds of vaccines;
- FDA and CDC was and is prioritizing the review process for COVID-19 vaccines; and
- researchers used existing clinical trial networks to quickly begin conducting the COVID vaccine trials.
If I have a medical condition, can I still receive the vaccine? What if I am immunocompromised?
Patients with underlying medical conditions can receive the vaccine. In fact, it is important that this group be vaccinated because they are at increased risk of having severe COVID-19 illness. Immunocompromised individuals (for example, persons living with HIV, transplant recipients, and those taking immunosuppressive medications) may receive the COVID-19 vaccines. However, because sufficient data is not yet available to establish vaccine efficacy in this population, immunocompromised individuals should be counseled by their healthcare provider on the potential for reduced immune response to the vaccine and the need to continue to follow all current guidance to protect themselves against COVID-19 even after getting vaccinated.
If I am pregnant or trying to get pregnant, can I still receive the vaccine?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are safe for you and your baby.
- The vaccines protect expectant mothers. Individuals who get COVID-19 while pregnant are at increased risk of severe illness. The vaccine will keep you safer.
- If you are trying to get pregnant, the vaccine is also recommended for you. There is no evidence it affects fertility.
- COVID-19 vaccine is safe for the developing baby. Research suggests that getting vaccinated both protects mothers and also passes on antibodies to babies that better protect them.
- Vaccination helps avoid pregnancy complications. People who get COVID-19 are at increased risk of pre-term birth.
Talk to your doctor for more information about vaccines and pregnancy.
Who should NOT receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
Almost everyone should get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Individuals with a history of allergic reactions that are not related to vaccines or injectable therapies may receive a COVID-19 vaccine. For example, people who are allergic to food, pets, venom, pollen, latex, or oral medications should get vaccinated against COVID-19.
A very few people may be allergic to a component of one of the vaccines. Those individuals are usually recommended to receive a different type of COVID-19 vaccine. For example, people who cannot receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines may be recommended to receive the J&J vaccine. If you know you are allergic to an ingredient in some of the vaccines, talk to a special kind of doctor called an allergist-immunologist before receiving the vaccine.
If you had a severe reaction to a different vaccine (not COVID-19) or injectable medication in the past, also talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Individuals who are currently sick with COVID-19 disease should not receive the vaccine until the person has recovered from acute illness and criteria have been met to discontinue isolation.
Individuals who received passive antibody (monoclonal antibodies or convalescent serum) as treatment for COVID-19 should defer vaccination for at least 90 days after antibody therapy.
Should I be concerned if I or a loved one received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine?
No. Any risk to you is extremely low.
On April 13, 2021, the County of Santa Clara and other healthcare providers paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, also known as Janssen, as recommended out of an abundance of caution by federal and state authorities. The federal government and the vaccine manufacturer are investigating rare health incidents in 6 people living in other places in the country out of the nearly 7 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered nationwide to see if they might be connected to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This is a part of the federal government system set up to keep medications safe.
If you were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than a month ago, any risk to you is very low. If you got the vaccine within the last few weeks, any risk is also extremely low. The 6 people who experienced the rare health incident in other places had symptoms 6-13 days after vaccination. These symptoms included severe headache, severe abdominal pain, severe leg pain, and shortness of breath. If you have questions or are worried that you might have these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider. It is important to remember that the vaccines were studied with tens of thousands of volunteers of different ages, races, and backgrounds and have been safely administered to millions of people nationwide. Studies have found that serious side effects are very rare, and the vaccines are very safe.
faqGroupLookupString: 2. Vaccine Science
How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?
Very effective. Clinical trials involving tens of thousands of individuals have demonstrated that the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (also known as Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are highly effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
Can children be vaccinated?
No. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is only authorized for administration in patients aged 16 years and older. The Moderna and Janssen/J&J vaccines are only authorized in patients aged 18 years and older. Clinical trials are underway for children, but at this point there is no vaccine approved for children.
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccine recipients commonly experience mild to moderate side effects that occur within the first three days of vaccination and resolve within 1-3 days of onset. These are normal signs that your body is building protection. Common side effects include mild to moderate pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site and/or mild to moderate flu-like symptoms (for example, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle aches). Serious side effects are very rare.
Can I contract COVID-19 after I’m vaccinated?
We have strong evidence that being vaccinated will prevent you from getting severely ill and dying from COVID-19. There may be a small chance that you can still get an asymptomatic infection or mild illness, but growing evidence suggests that being vaccinated makes this possibility much less likely than if you were never vaccinated.
It is important to keep in mind that it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it is possible a person could contract COVID-19 shortly after vaccination and get sick because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
If I’ve had COVID-19 in the past and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had a COVID-19 infection. If you were treated for COVID-19 with intravenous monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID vaccine. Otherwise, you can receive a vaccine dose after you have recovered from acute illness and have completed your isolation period. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatment you received or if you have more questions about getting a vaccine. Experts do not yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Note: Some healthcare organizations may prioritize for vaccination those who have not had a previous infection in the prior 90 days.
faqGroupLookupString: 3. Vaccine Eligibility
How can I prove my eligibility at a County Health System vaccination site?
To demonstrate eligibility at County Health System vaccination sites, you should bring a document showing that you live or work in Santa Clara County.
Please note that the requirements at vaccination sites run by other providers, such as Kaiser, Stanford, or Palo Alto Medical Foundation, may be different.
The County understands some individuals do not have an updated photo ID or traditional paystub and will accept any reasonable document. For convenience, below are examples of documents the County will accept.
Proof that you live in Santa Clara County
Proof that you work in Santa Clara County
- Government-issued ID (current or expired)
- Utility bill
- Rental agreement
- Library card
- Postmarked letter
- Vehicle registration or insurance
- Letter from landlord
- Court document showing name and address
- Letter or document from a faith-based organization, shelter, or non-profit institution with the name/address of issuing organization
- Membership card such as union, YMCA, store club card, fitness center, etc.
- Lease agreement, utility bill, or other document providing address and name of individual that you live with and letter from that individual that they live with you
- Work ID
- Paystub showing work address
- Letter from employer showing work address and that you work for them
- Letter from union showing your work address
- Letter or document from a faith-based organization, shelter, or non-profit institution with the name/address of issuing organization
faqGroupLookupString: 4. Vaccine Logistics and Timeline
4. Vaccine Logistics and Timeline
Where will most people get vaccinated when they become eligible?
Like other vaccines, many people will receive COVID-19 vaccination through their primary care provider. All large health systems including Kaiser, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the County’s hospitals and clinics, Stanford Healthcare, and some smaller community clinics have been allocated vaccine to vaccinate their patients as they become eligible. Other entities like the large pharmacy chains (for example CVS, Rite Aid) are also beginning to offer COVID-19 vaccination to eligible members of the public.
If vaccines are coming, do I still have to wear a mask, keep a distance, and avoid gatherings, especially when indoors?
Yes. We all need to do our part to stay safe while we wait for vaccines to be widely available, and for a sufficient portion of the population to be vaccinated. Our county, like everyone else, has received a limited supply to start. More will come over time. This means we all need to work together to keep our risk of COVID-19 low. We can do that by protecting ourselves and others by wearing face masks, keeping our distance, and not gathering in groups, especially when indoors.
Who determines how many doses of vaccine are available in Santa Clara County?
The State of California sets the number of doses of vaccine that go to each county. The County Public Health Department is then directed to apportion a subset of these doses to healthcare providers in the County, according to directions from the state and federal government. Some other organizations with facilities in Santa Clara County get additional supplies of vaccine from the state or federal government. These organizations include federal government agencies and large health care systems that operate in more than one county (including Kaiser and Sutter/Palo Alto Medical Foundation). Large retail pharmacies receive additional supplies.
Can I choose which vaccine I receive?
Depending on where you receive the vaccine, you may or may not be given a choice of options. Because all authorized vaccines are safe and effective, it is important that you are vaccinated with the first vaccine that is offered to you to ensure that you are protected as soon as possible.
How are you accommodating individuals who cannot stand in line very long?
Each vaccination clinic has a special workflow to ensure individuals with disabilities can safely and comfortably access the site. Each site has designated parking for anyone with mobility challenges. Wheelchairs are available as needed onsite to provide access to registration, vaccination, and observation areas to minimize distances to walk between stations.
If I received my first dose of vaccine outside of Santa Clara County, how can I receive my second dose?
If there are appointments available, eligible individuals who received their first vaccination dose in another county, may register to receive their second dose in Santa Clara County. To make sure that you are scheduled into a site carrying the correct manufacturer for your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), please call (408) 970-2000 to schedule your appointment. Online scheduling is only available for first dose appointments.
How do I cancel an appointment with the County Health System?
Appointments can be canceled by calling Valley Connections at 408-970-2000. Or, if a patient enters their mobile number during registration, they will receive a confirmation text message the day after that allows for cancellation within 24 hours of the appointment.