Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, how they work, the benefits of getting vaccinated and San Diego County’s vaccine distribution plan.
Family Health Centers of San Diego’s doctors, nurses and America’s leading medical experts are in full support of the COVID-19 vaccines. We are here to answer your questions as we begin the next phase of fighting this pandemic.
The COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you COVID-19.
The vaccines do not carry the virus, they only use a protein from the virus that allows your body’s immune system to generate antibodies.
Q What are the benefits of taking the vaccine?+
- Getting vaccinated will help keep you, your family, and our community healthy and safe.
- Currently authorized vaccines are 95% effective at protecting you from the coronavirus.
- By getting vaccinated, you can help end the damage to the economy caused by lockdowns and prevent more illnesses and death.
- Getting vaccinated will significantly free up space in crowded hospitals and ensure everyone, not just COVID-19 patients, is able to get the medical care they need.
Q What are the vaccine’s side effects?+
We understand you may be concerned about side effects. The most common side effects are mild and may include arm soreness, fatigue, headache, chills, mild fever or joint/muscle aches. These are similar to other vaccines you have received. When mild side effects occur, they are a normal sign your body is building protection to the virus, and most go away in a few days. More severe side effects, such as serious allergic reaction, are extremely rare, occurring in about 1 in 100,000 to 400,000 people.
Depending on which vaccine you receive, it will be delivered in two shots 21 or 28 days apart, and these side effects may be slightly worse after the second shot.
If you have pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:
- Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area
- Use or exercise your arm
To reduce discomfort from fever:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Dress lightly
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)
When to call the doctor:
In most cases, discomfort from mild fever or pain is normal. Contact your doctor or health care provider if:
- You develop a high fever or chills
- Your symptoms last longer than 48 hours
- While rare, if you experience any severe allergic reactions (breathing problems, swelling of your mouth/face/tongue or hives, dizziness and weakness or irregular or fast heartbeat)
Q Who will get the vaccine when it is available?+
FHCSD is dedicated to ensuring that our high-risk patients are able to access the vaccine as soon as it is available to them. However, because the supply is limited, the vaccine is currently being distributed in phases according to County guidelines.
Now Vaccinating Phase 1A (all Tiers) and Phase 1B
To learn more about the groups within each phase, please review the County of San Diego vaccination distribution guidelines.
Q If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?+
If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered, current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period if desired. After this period, it is still recommended that you receive the vaccine as it will likely give you stronger immunity that may last longer than from natural infection.
Q How long is the vaccine effective for?+
We do not know how long protection will last following the completion of the two-dose vaccination. As information from ongoing clinical trials become public, we will know more. In comparison, immunity to two similar coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, lasted at least three years.
Since this virus is new, experts don’t know how long natural immunity (protection someone gains from having an infection) might last. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon for 90 days after initial infection.
Q How do we know the vaccine is safe?+
The COVID-19 vaccine went through the same transparent and rigorous process with tens of thousands of clinical trial participants as other regular vaccinations, like the flu or chicken pox. This process includes multiple steps, which allow medical researchers to check for safety issues several times before the vaccine is available for everyone. Researchers also paused clinical trials if there were any unexpected results to ensure there were no serious problems. Every study, every phase and every trial was reviewed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and a safety board.
Q How were they able to develop the vaccine so quickly?+
You may be concerned about how quickly the COVID-19 vaccine was developed. However, the speed does not mean the vaccine is unsafe. The vaccine was developed quickly for several reasons:
- Medical researchers have been working on vaccines for other viruses in the coronavirus family for many years. Because of this, they were able to use the information already available to create a successful vaccine more quickly.
- Medical researchers from all over the world worked together to share new information and data as it was discovered, which sped up the process.
- The clinical trials used combined phases during testing. This allowed them to run multiple clinical trials at the same time.
Q What happens after I get vaccinated?+
After you are vaccinated, you should continue to wear a mask, stay six feet away from others and wash your hands frequently. Currently available vaccines are delivered in two shots. Depending on which you receive, you must wait 21 or 28 days to receive the second shot. About a week after you receive the second shot, you will begin to develop immunity, but it is important that you continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines, since not everyone in your community will have received the vaccination yet.
Q How will I know when to come in for the second dose?+
The currently approved COVID-19 vaccines must be administered in two doses, 21 or 28 days apart, and your second dose must be from the same manufacturer as your first dose. FHCSD will call you to schedule an appointment when it is time for your second dose.
Q Can I get my second dose of the vaccine from FHCSD if I got my first dose from somewhere else?+
Yes, but your second dose needs to be from the same manufacturer as your first dose. At this time, we are only offering the Moderna vaccine.
Q How does the vaccine scheduling process work?+
FHCSD’s medical leadership is actively working to ensure all patients are able to receive a vaccine when it becomes available, starting with individuals identified by the state as highest-risk.
Q I’m scheduled to receive a vaccine. What can I expect at the vaccine clinic?+
If you are scheduled to receive your vaccine, please be sure to keep your appointment and arrive on time, or earlier. If you are unable to make your appointment, please call (619) 515-2474 and notify our staff so we are able to fill your appointment time and reschedule you.
Please check-in 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. This helps our staff maintain a steady pace for each appointment and ensures we are able to schedule your second dose appointment.
Because we are vaccinating many people, it’s important for us to streamline this process. You can help by arriving 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to check in and ask any questions you may have prior to getting your vaccine.
Once you have received your vaccine, you will be asked to wait in a designated seating area for a 15-30 minute observation period before you can leave. This is for your safety and to ensure you do not show any allergic reactions to the vaccine.
Please comply with this safety measure. You will also be given post-vaccination discharge instructions that you should read and keep available for reference.
Q What if I develop symptoms after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?+
You may experience mild to moderate symptoms or side effects after receiving the vaccine. This is to be expected since they are a normal sign your body is building protection.
If you develop any of the following mild symptoms, they should go away in a few days:
If you develop moderate symptoms, we suggest that you stay at home and consider managing your symptoms with over-the-counter medications:
- Muscle pain
If your symptoms last longer than 48 hours, contact your provider so they can evaluate your symptoms.
Although rare, if you experience any severe allergic reactions, you should seek immediate medical attention.
- Breathing problems
- Swelling of your mouth/face/tongue
- Dizziness and weakness
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
For more information on what to expect after getting your vaccine, visit the CDC website.
Q Does the CDC recommend the V-Safe program for side effect tracking?+
The CDC recommends V-Safe to all vaccine recipients. V-Safe is a smartphone-based tool that allows you to quickly tell the CDC if you are experiencing any side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. It does this through text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins of anyone receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
V-Safe will also send you a reminder about your second COVID-19 dose. This immediate feedback to the CDC helps to keep COVID-19 vaccines safe and you safe as well. Additional information about the V-Safe program will be provided to you following your vaccination.
Q Once I’ve been vaccinated, will I still need to wear a mask, maintain distance from others and practice other safety protocols?+
Yes, it’s very important to continue to wear a mask, maintain physical distance from others, wash your hands regularly and other safety measures, even after you’ve been vaccinated.
Immunity to COVID-19 is not immediate—the vaccine is a two-dose series and it will take 1-2 weeks following the second dose to be considered fully vaccinated.
In fact, the CDC recommends we continue to practice all COVID-19 health and safety protocols for the foreseeable future. Initially, there will only be enough vaccine to immunize a small percentage of people. As more and more people are vaccinated over the next several months, it will slowly become more difficult for the virus to spread. Experts predict we may see some level of normalcy by fall of 2021.
Remember that the intent of the vaccine is to keep you from getting sick with COVID-19. Even if you’ve been vaccinated and have no symptoms, you may still be able to transmit the virus.