Californians 16+ eligible for COVID vaccines, here’s what South Bay residents should know
Resident Aurora Flores receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

All California residents 16 years and older can start signing up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments today. So what does that mean for the more than two million residents of Santa Clara County?

County health officials said Tuesday to expect the first few days of eligibility to result in overwhelmed appointment systems. Not everyone will be able to get an appointment right away, but residents are advised to keep trying.

“Please be patient and check back later if the website is temporarily down or if appointments are fully booked,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “New appointments are added regularly by the county health system as well as other vaccine providers throughout Santa Clara County.”

San Jose resident Carolyn Bauer said she had a hard time getting her husband and son vaccine appointments until this weekend. Bauer, who participated in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial last year with her daughter, said she finally found appointments at CVS Pharmacy after searching multiple vaccine providers.

Bauer’s husband and son drove to neighboring counties to get their shots.

“Thankfully and luckily, we had my husband’s employer support, (letting him leave) with short notice,” Bauer said. “Also, we had the ability to drive there.”

Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines:

How many doses administered across the state?

California has administered more than 23 million vaccines total, according to a state database. Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to fully reopen the state by June 15, with conditions. By that point, Newsom said, there must be enough vaccine supply for every single individual aged 16 and older. Additionally, hospitalizations must remain stable and low.

How many doses administered in Santa Clara County?

According to Santa Clara County data, to date local health providers have administered nearly 700,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and about 425,000 second doses. The county’s health system has about 80,000 appointments scheduled in the next seven days, while all health care providers, both public and private, have a total of 132,000 vaccine appointments scheduled in the next week.

How do I make an appointment?

Santa Clara County health officials encourage residents to visit www.sccfreevax.org to make an appointment. Links on this county website will direct you to a number of hospitals and clinics where the COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Due to the county’s “no wrong door” policy, residents can make an appointment anywhere that is most convenient for them.

What will the vaccine cost?

Vaccines are available to all Santa Clara County residents at no cost, regardless of whether the recipient has insurance. Vaccine providers can seek reimbursement from the recipient’s insurance provider, but providers cannot directly bill the recipient.

What side effects could I experience? 

Some individuals will not experience any side effects from the vaccine, while others report mild reactions in the days following their inoculation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could experience the following symptoms: soreness at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, joint pain and nausea, among other mild reactions.

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused due to extremely rare cases of blood clotting.

What if I can’t book an appointment? 

Keep refreshing the booking page, or try a different location. Santa Clara County reports that it expects to receive upwards of 300,000 doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the next week, with sufficient supplies to guarantee second doses for all recipients. If you have difficulty navigating the appointment webpage, county officials encourage calling 211 for assistance.

How can I get to my appointment if I don’t have a car?

The Valley Transportation Authority is offering free transit rides to vaccine appointments. Residents can take a bus or light rail to each county vaccination site. An interactive map of all county vaccine sites, as well as transit routes to get there, is available here.

The Valley Transportation Authority is offering free rides to vaccination appointments across Santa Clara County. Courtesy VTA.

Should I keep my vaccination record card?

California health officials encourage everyone to keep their vaccination record card received at their first vaccination appointment. If you lose your card, contact your vaccination provider for a replacement.

Can I choose which vaccine I receive?

The answer depends on where you receive the vaccine. Some clinics may have adequate supplies of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to let you choose, but some may have more of one than another. ​​

“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,” according to a statement on the county public health department’s website.

What happened with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? Is there a chance I might receive it?

All health care providers across the United States stopped administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday after reports of blood clotting side effect among six individuals, all women aged 18 to 48. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released guidance to pause administration while further investigation is underway.

County health officials Tuesday said there are several thousand doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in storage, but none will be administered until further guidance from the federal government.

A list of frequently asked questions and answers is also available on the Santa Clara County public health website.

Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

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