How to get the COVID vaccine in California: Here's some helpful info

The efforts to vaccinate California residents against COVID is still underway, despite the slow and confusing start. 

At one point, the country's most populous state was stuck near the bottom of the 50 states in terms of vaccinating people, according to national data tracked by Bloomberg. The state's data showed that it consistently had a high percentage of unused doses.

Residents have also been baffled about how they schedule appointments to get the shots. There is no central authority for reserving a dose. Instead, county health departments and private health care providers are responsible, which means that residents get different access and information based on where they live and what type of medical coverage they have.

Doctors' offices became overwhelmed with calls from patients seeking shots when the Gov. Newsom announced that COVID vaccines would be immediately avaialble to people 65 and older.

Newsom has admitted the state's vaccination plan has fallen short in areas, some of which are partially blamed on technical difficulties, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times

As the state seeks to speed up vaccinations, counties are providing more clarity on the ever-evolving distribution plans and how residents can figure out their place in line.

Amid the patchwork response being sewn together across California to the unprecedented crisis, KTVU is trying to provide answers to common vaccine questions.

How will I be vaccinated? 

There is not a big enough supply of vaccines nor a well-organized system for administering doses to everyone in California or across the U.S.

So, California’s governor is pledging a more seamless coronavirus vaccination system that should make it easier for nearly 40 million residents to know when it’s their turn to get vaccinated and where to sign up, easing some of the confusion and angst as 58 counties try to roll out the scarce shots themselves.

The state is moving to an age-based eligibility system after vaccinating those now at the front of the line, including health care workers, food and agriculture workers, teachers, emergency personnel and seniors 65 and older, Newsom said at a news briefing Monday.

The governor said his administration is "simplifying and standardizing the process statewide" to get all eligible Californians vaccinated in a timely manner.

So who's first?

Health care workers and long-term care residents are the highest priority groups for receiving the vaccine, along with people ages 65 and older after the state expanded vaccine access.

The next eligible phase will include emergency workers, teachers, childcare providers and food and agriculture workers. See below for a full list of each phase and tier.

The supply of the vaccine is already affecting the ability to vaccinate more people.

Some county officials have said they don't have enough doses to vaccinate everyone who is eligible. In Santa Clara County, public health officials said they are vaccinating health care workers and long term care residents, but they would only vaccinate people age 75 and older at this time because they don’t have enough doses to go around.

How do I know I'm eligible for the vaccine?

Counties are using to a variety of methods to notify residents when it’s their turn. In Santa Clara County, for example, people who are eligible to be vaccinated can make an appointment through a county website for their shot. San Francisco, meanwhile, said it has adopted a notification system for residents to recieve an email or text when they become eligible. Check with your county's health department for local eligibilty. 

California is also rolling out a new website called My Turn" — which is now a pilot program in Los Angeles and San Diego counties — where residents will be able to get notified when it’s their turn and make an appointment.

When it's my turn, where can I get the COVID vaccine?

Most Californians will be vaccinated at mass vaccination sites, doctors' offices, clinics, or pharmacies. Alternatively, your primary care provider or employer may refer you to a vaccine location (e.g., CVS, Walgreens or other point of dispensing location).

How many COVID-19 vaccine doses are needed?

So far two vaccines have been approved for use. They both require getting two shots, but the timing is different. The two does of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, is to be taken 21 days apart while the Moderna shots hould be taken 28 days apart.

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost? 

In most cases, COVID-19 vaccines, including the administration, are free. 

Do I need to be a California resident to get COVID-19 vaccine?

No. Vaccine distribution is based on eligibility irrespective of residency or immigration status.