Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, how they work, the benefits of getting vaccinated and the latest state guidance.
Family Health Centers of San Diego’s doctors, nurses and America’s leading medical experts are in full support of the COVID-19 vaccines. Below are answers to commonly asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination.
Schedule an appointment:
To schedule your vaccine appointment, call (619) 515-2474.
Appointments are preferred, but some clinics have limited walk-in capacity. Please arrive early as supplies are limited and on some days lines form in advance of opening.
For more information about the COVID-19 Vaccines, visit the CDC website.
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, redness, swelling, fatigue, headache, chills, nausea, 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, acetaminophen, aspirin (only for people age 18 or older) or antihistamines after getting vaccinated. Don’t take any of these medicines before getting vaccinated.
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
When to call the doctor:
In most cases, discomfort from mild fever or pain is normal. Contact your doctor or health care provider if:
- The redness or tenderness where the shot was given gets worse after 24 hours
- Your symptoms last longer than 48 hours
Although 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), call 9-1-1 immediately or go to the emergency room.
Q Who is eligible to get the vaccine?+
Q I’m waiting to get vaccinated. What’s the rush?+
Vaccinations get us community-wide protection more quickly, prevent more infections and save thousands of lives. When enough people are vaccinated, schools and businesses can reopen, and we can return to doing the things we love. Vaccines keep you, your family, and our community healthy and safe.
Q I’m concerned about cost. What if my insurance doesn’t cover the vaccine?+
Currently, the vaccine is available at no-cost to anyone who lives or works in the United States, regardless of income, residency status or insurance coverage. You also do not need a Social Security Number to be vaccinated.
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 What if I had COVID-19 and received the antibody treatment?+
If you received antibody infusion therapy, you should not get vaccinated until at least 90 days after treatment. The vaccines likely will not be effective until the antibodies have had a chance to go away. If you had your antibody treatment at FHCSD, we are tracking this and will contact you when it is appropriate for you to get vaccinated.
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 Food and 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 if I have recently had another non-COVID-19 vaccination?+
You should avoid getting any other vaccines 14 days before or after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. We are happy to help you schedule around these other vaccines.
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. One to two weeks after you receive the second shot, you will begin to develop immunity. Currently, the CDC says people who are fully vaccinated can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. However, it is important that you continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines in public, since not everyone in your community will have received the vaccination yet.
Q After I’m fully vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask?+
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 Is it true that the vaccine will change my DNA?+
The vaccines do not interact with your DNA in any way. The vaccines deliver instructions to our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.
Q Is it true that the vaccine will implant a microchip to track me?+
The vaccine will not implant anything in your body. To help deliver the key ingredient of the vaccines (either mRNA or the harmless adenovirus, depending on the vaccine) to your immune system, the vaccine also contains lipids, salts, sugars, acids and ethanol, all of which occur naturally in your body. There are no metals or other microchips parts in any of the approved vaccines.
Getting Your Vaccine
Q Where can I get vaccinated?+
We have vaccination clinics at multiple FHCSD sites. Depending on availability, you may get a choice of sites when you schedule. For the current list of vaccination sites, click here.
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. Currently, we are able to offer the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
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 What vaccines are available at FHCSD and can I choose which one I receive?+
Currently, we are able to offer the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. However, due to limited vaccine supply, you may not choose which version you receive.
Q Will I need one or two shots of the vaccine?+
It depends. If you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will only need one shot. If you get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, you will need to return for a second shot.
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 How will I schedule my second shot?+
If you are a current FHCSD patient, you will schedule your second shot at the same time as your first using the link in MyHealthRecord. If you are not a patient, FHCSD will call you to schedule your second appointment.
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 and should go away in a few days.
Common Side Effects
On the arm where you got the shot:
Throughout the rest of your body:
- 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.
Johnson & Johnson
Q Why was the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused?+
A small number of people experienced a specific type of blood clot after receiving the vaccine, so medical experts paused the use of Johnson & Johnson to determine its safety. During this time, they reviewed all the available data and decided the most appropriate response. Because they determined that the benefits of protection against COVID-19 from administering the vaccine greatly outweigh the very small risks associated with its use, we can now use the vaccine again.
Q What is the risk of blood clot?+
The risk of getting a blood clot from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is extremely low. There have been fewer than 1 case per million vaccines given for people who are 50 years or older. For women between 18 and 49, the risk is estimated to be about 7 cases per million, or about 1 in every 143,000 vaccines given. The risk of blood clotting is much higher for people who contract COVID-19 than it is for people who receive the J&J vaccine.
Q If I already received Johnson & Johnson, am I at risk?+
In the few cases of blood clots that were found, symptoms occurred between one to two weeks after the shot. If you received the Johnson & Johnson shot more than three weeks ago and have not developed any of the symptoms associated with the blood clots, you are not at risk.
Q What are the symptoms of a blood clot?+
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Leg swelling
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Severe or persistent headaches
- Blurred vision
- Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin
If you experience any of these symptoms one to three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, please seek immediate medical attention. Remember that side effects such as mild headache, fatigue and sore arm in the first few days after the vaccine are not likely to be due to blood clots.
Q If I’m offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, should I take it?+
The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family is to receive the first available COVID-19 vaccine. You are more likely to contract a potentially life-threatening case of COVID-19 than have serious side effects from the vaccine. Additionally, many people prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it has fewer side effects than the other available COVID-19 vaccines and involves one shot instead of two to be fully protected.