About the Vaccine
- Reduce number of people with COVID-19
- Reduce severity of illness
- Reduce hospitalizations
- Reduce deaths
There are two vaccines currently available: one from Moderna and one from Pfizer. Both have shown to be 94-95% effective and both require two doses, given about three weeks apart. Based on currently available data, the CDC and California Department of Public Health advises that both doses are required for complete protection.
Some people have experienced side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, like temporary pain or swelling on the arm where they got the shot and fever, chills, tiredness, or headache throughout the rest of your body. Such side effects are normal for any vaccine and should be expected as the body builds cells to defend against COVID-19.
Being vaccinated again COVID-19 helps the body develop a memory response to fight off the virus that causes COVID-19, without having to get the illness. COVID-19 vaccines also decrease the likelihood of severe illness or death if infection does occur. For more information, see Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work (CDC).
The vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines contain material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes (white blood cells) that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person. mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA. For more information on mRNA vaccines, see Understanding and Explaining mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines (CDC).
The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective based on large clinical trials with diverse participants.
What systems are in place to monitor for side effects in real time?
There are systems in place to monitor for adverse events and side effects of the vaccine in real-time, including:
- V-safe app from the CDC is a smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. V-safe uses text messaging and surveys to check in with COVID-19 vaccine recipients after vaccination. Simply put, anyone with symptoms enters their information into V-Safe so that researchers can continue to study the safety of the vaccine on all populations.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national system used by the CDC and the FDA. This system collects reports from healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the public regarding any adverse events that may happen after vaccination.
National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) is an acute and long-term facility monitoring system that reports to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).
Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is a network of nine healthcare organizations from across the US that conduct active surveillance and research. This system is used to aid in determining if possible side effects identified in the VAERS are actually related to the vaccine.
Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Project is a collaboration between seven medical research institutions and the CDC. CISA provides consultation on a case by case basis, and conducts research about vaccine safety.
More information about how the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine is ensured can be viewed here.
Distributing the Vaccine
Alameda County is following the State’s prioritization framework, which is based on the CDC’s recommendations and is evolving. Vaccine administration began in Alameda County the week of December 14, 2020. For the latest updates on where the County is with vaccine administration, please visit our COVID-19 Vaccination Page.
Vaccines are being administered in phases. How quickly we can move through each phase depends on how much vaccine is available. Local health departments have some control within the phases but cannot skip phases or go out of order. All phases are subject to revision by the State.
Each Phase is broken down further into Tiers to help prioritize within each phase. For more details on tiers, please see California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan
As of January 6, 2021, the prioritization phases are as follows:
Vaccine supply is limited. Distribution is being prioritized by groups of people based on their risk of exposure to—or becoming severely ill from—the virus that causes COVID-19. Prioritization criteria include occupation, age, living and health conditions.
Hundreds of thousands of people are in Phase 1, and we will likely not complete this phase until the Spring.
As supply increases, it will be offered to more and more people but that will take many months.
In our state, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) makes the final decision about when different groups of people get the vaccine. These decisions are based on a framework from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and guiding principles similarly to those listed below.
The Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) is responsible for carrying out the state’s plan, and for coordinating each phase of vaccine distribution.
The Alameda County phases for distribution can be viewed here.
Before the CDC issues their framework, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) makes recommendations about when different groups should receive the vaccine.
The California Department of Public Health Drafting Guidelines Committee finalizes the phase prioritization. You can view the current phases here: https://covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/#When-can-I-get-vaccinated.
The Alameda County COVID-19 Vaccine Values & Principles:
- Provide transparent and accurate information to help people make vaccine decisions
- Lead with equity and data (Race/Ethnicity, Geography, Socioeconomic factors, Critical populations)
- Ensure safe and equitable distribution
- Leverage all venues and partners for broad distribution (Hospitals, Clinics, Private practice, Pharmacies, Community based Points of Distribution (PODs))
- Which vaccines are approved for use in United States (FDA)
- How much vaccine will be allocated to each state (CDC)
- Overall framework for who gets vaccine at each phase of the rollout (CDC)
- Initial Framework: A Phased Approach for COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation (National Academy of Medicine)
- Ongoing research, monitoring, and oversight (NIH, FDA, CDC)
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will decide:
- Which vaccine(s) will be used in CA
- How much vaccine will be allocated to each local health jurisdiction/county
- State-specific framework for who will get vaccine when (per federal guidelines)
- Which data systems will be used across the state to monitor vaccine distribution and uptake
- Ongoing data collection, monitoring and oversight
Alameda County Health Care Services Agency will:
- Coordinate local infrastructure for vaccine storage, distribution, & administration
- Promote equitable distribution across local communities
- Develop County-specific framework for who gets vaccine when (per state guidelines)
- Conduct ongoing data reporting and monitoring
Getting the Vaccine
The vaccine may be administered through:
- your employer
- your medical or health care provider
- your place of residence
- a mobile vaccination team
- a County POD (Point of Distribution)
- a clinic
Alameda County residents, employers and health care providers can register with the county to receive notification for when it’s your turn to be vaccinated. Please visit our website at https://covid-19.acgov.org/vaccines to register for vaccine eligibility notification.
Additionally, individuals can find out if they are eligible for vaccination from their employer, medical insurer, and via public communications and community groups.
You do not need to make an appointment to receive your second dose. Return to the location where you received your first dose on the date listed on your vaccination card.
If you received your first dose of the vaccine on or after Monday, 1/11/21:
You will make your second dose appointment onsite, right after you receive your first dose.
Right after you receive your first dose of the vaccine, you will receive a QR code to scan with a smartphone. This QR code will help you schedule your second dose appointment online, the same way you scheduled your first dose appointment.
If you cannot access the QR code that day, you will receive an email to remind you to schedule the appointment for your second dose. The email will come from: email@example.com
The two vaccines that are currently available each require two doses, given three or four weeks apart.
When you receive your first dose, the vaccinator will provide you with information about which vaccine you received and when to get your second dose.
No. There is no requirement from the local, state, or federal government to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is a voluntary decision, so we strive to share the best available information to help people make the right choice for themselves.
There is no cost associated with getting vaccinated against COVID-19— regardless of insurance, immigration status, or vaccine phase.
If you qualify for vaccine earlier based on your age or health care conditions (e.g. 65+ in Phase 1b, Tier 1 or age 35 with asthma in Phase 1c) please check with your primary care provider or your county of residence about where and when to receive the vaccine.
Click here to read the essential worker list.
Please continue to follow the prevention guidelines you’ve heard about since the pandemic started:
- Wear a face covering
- Keep at least six feet of distance from anyone you don’t live with
- Wash your hands oftenStay home if sick
- Avoid gatherings
Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, getting vaccinated is beneficial regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection.
At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.
After Receiving the Vaccine
Yes. The vaccine will protect you from developing severe illness, but it may not stop you from spreading COVID-19 to others. Until we get enough people vaccinated to protect our entire community, it is critical that everyone—even those who have been vaccinated—continue to wear masks and follow other COVID-19 prevention guidance.
Yes. Since it's still possible to become ill with the virus until you've had both doses of vaccine, please continue to follow the prevention guidelines you’ve heard about since the pandemic started:
- Wear a face covering when you are with people you don't live with
- Keep at least six feet of distance from anyone you don’t live with
- Wash your hands often
- Stay home if you are sick
- Avoid gatherings with people you don't live with
No. Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.
If your body develops an immune response—the goal of vaccination—there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.
No. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.
Messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.
At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. That immune response and making antibodies is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.