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 (e.g. 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 safety and efficacy in this population, immunocompromised individuals should be counseled by their healthcare provider on the risks and benefits of receiving the vaccine and the precautions to take after receiving the vaccine.
If I am pregnant or breastfeeding, can I still receive the vaccine?
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding (and are part of an eligible group) can receive the vaccine. However, since vaccine clinical trials did not include pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers, there is limited direct data on COVID-19 vaccine safety for this population. A discussion with your healthcare provider on the risks and benefits of vaccination is therefore recommended.
Who should NOT receive a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine?
Individuals who have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components should not receive mRNA COVID-19 vaccination at this time, unless they have been evaluated by an allergist-immunologist and it is determined that the person can safely receive the vaccine. Persons with immediate allergic reactions to polysorbate or polyethylene glycol [PEG] should also not receive the vaccine.
Individuals with a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any other vaccine or injectable therapy (e.g., intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous) should consult with a healthcare provider before receiving the vaccine.
In addition, individuals with active COVID-19 disease should not receive the vaccine until completion of their isolation period and resolution of their symptoms.
Note: Individuals with a history of allergic reactions that are not related to vaccines or injectable therapies (e.g., food, pet, venom, environmental, latex allergies, or oral medications) can receive the COVID-19 vaccines.
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. After two doses, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine demonstrated 95.0% effectiveness while the Moderna vaccine showed 94.1% effectiveness. The Janssen/J&J vaccine, which only requires one dose, demonstrated 74.4% effectiveness against moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, with levels rising to 85.9% effectiveness in preventing severe cases after 4 weeks.
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?
Serious side effects are very rare. Many vaccine recipients experience mild or moderate side effects. 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 (e.g., fever, fatigue, headache, chills). All side effects should resolve in a few days.
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’s 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 (either a first or second dose) after you 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
Who is currently eligible to be vaccinated?
The State determines vaccine eligibility for all Californians and the definitions of the eligible categories for vaccination. The State’s vaccination website contains the categories of people currently eligible for vaccination and the State’s updated COVID-19 vaccine allocation guidelines provide definitions for these categories. Depending on vaccine supply, healthcare providers in Santa Clara County are offering vaccines to people in some or all eligible categories. The providers listed in the “Book an Appointment” section above each list the categories of individuals they are vaccinating if you click on the provider link.
What if I am unsure if I fit in the eligibility criteria?
Because vaccination eligibility for Californians and the definitions of the eligible categories are determined by the State, please contact the State for eligibility questions. The State’s vaccination website contains the categories of people currently eligible for vaccination and the State’s updated COVID-19 vaccine allocation guidelines provides definitions for these categories.
We know that the State’s categories and definitions can be ambiguous and difficult to follow, but unfortunately have no additional information beyond what the State has posted on its vaccination website. If you have questions, we recommend calling the State COVID-19 Hotline at 833-422-4255 for more information. Per the State, the call center is open Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
How can I prove my eligibility at a County Health System vaccination site?
To prove your eligibility at County Health System vaccination sites you will need to sign a document under penalty of perjury confirming that you meet the eligibility criteria and bring a document showing:
- That you live in Santa Clara County if you are eligible because you are:
- 50 or above
- A resident of a long-term care facility
- A resident of a congregate residential setting or unhoused or
- 16-49 and have a qualifying severe health condition or disability or illness.
- That you live or work in Santa Clara County if you are eligible because of your work in:
- Education and childcare
- Emergency services
- Food and agriculture
- A congregate residential setting or
- Public transit.
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
How do I know when it’s my turn to get the vaccine?
The County’s website sccfreevax.org includes the latest information on vaccine eligibility in Santa Clara County. You can also talk to your healthcare provider to find out how they plan to notify you when you become eligible. Note: All healthcare providers must follow the State’s direction on vaccine eligibility as supplies allow. The State’s vaccination website contains the categories of people currently eligible for vaccination and the State’s updated COVID-19 vaccine allocation guidelines provide definitions for these categories.
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 (e.g., CVS, Rite Aid, etc.) 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 to vaccinate people who live in certain types of nursing homes, through a program organized by the federal government.
Can I choose which vaccine I receive?
Supplies do not generally permit a choice of the type of vaccine that individuals receive. Many facilities lack the infrastructure to handle the Pfizer vaccine, for example. 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.
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.