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COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Patients

Nov. 23, 2021 update:

  • COVID-19 vaccines for children: Eligible patients ages 5 to 11 years who have an active MyUCSDChart account should have received a notification to schedule their vaccine appointment. Appointment availability is based on our supplies of Pfizer doses for kids. See details about COVID-19 vaccine for kids.
  • COVID-19 booster vaccines: We are offering these doses for our eligible patients. See more information.

UC San Diego Health is proud to have delivered more than 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the San Diego community.

Getting Your Initial COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

If you need a COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to check the VaccineFinder site to schedule at a convenient location. Vaccines are free and available to anyone 12 years and older. You can also register on California state's MyTurn website or see the County of San Diego’s website.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5–11

Children ages 5-11 are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. We are offering the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine to our patients in this age range who have a MyUCSDChart account.

  • We use smaller needles that are designed especially for kids.
  • Each dose for 5- to 11-year-olds is one-third the amount given to children ages 12 and older and adults.
  • Full vaccination requires two doses, with a gap of at least three to six weeks.

How to Schedule

  • First dose: If your child is eligible, you'll receive a MyChart notification with information to schedule a vaccine for your child. Log into your MyUCSDChart account, switch to your child’s profile and go to “Messages” to view the invitation and schedule the dose at a UC San Diego Health location.
  • Second dose: You can schedule the second dose for your eligible children using the same link provided for scheduling the first dose. Remember to keep a gap of at least three to six weeks.

We encourage parents to schedule their children’s vaccine appointments wherever they can get in soonest. Vaccine appointments are also available at various locations around San Diego County. To find a location near you, visit VaccineFinder or register on the state’s MyTurn website. COVID-19 vaccines are the best chance to avoid serious illness.

More Information

COVID-19 Booster Vaccine Doses

All California residents who are 18 and older are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot if it has been six months since their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months since their Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (Read state guidance and FAQs.)

At this time, we are vaccinating patients who receive their medical care at UC San Diego Health. 

We have sent invitations via MyUCSDChart to certain groups of patients, based on CDC recommendations. You can log into your MyUCSDChart account and go to “Messages” to view your invitation and schedule your booster vaccine at one of our locations.

If you are eligible and haven't yet received an invitation, we encourage you to schedule an appointment wherever you can receive a booster shot the soonest. You may find options around San Diego County, including retail pharmacies, by visiting the VaccineFinder site or the state's MyTurn website.

Please note:

  • At a UC San Diego Health vaccine site, you will be required to show a photo ID, your vaccination card (a physical or digital record) and proof of insurance. We will collect insurance information, but there’s no out-of-pocket expense to patients.
  • UC San Diego Health patients with questions about booster shots can call us at 800-926-8273.
  • For more information, see FAQs on getting your booster vaccine.

Digital Vaccine and Testing Records

You can now access a digital copy of your COVID-19 vaccine records or COVID-19 test results through our MyUCSDChart patient portal. You'll be able to generate a QR code that can soon be read by participating organizations or download a PDF record of your vaccine doses.

The digital vaccine record is also known as a SMART Health Card. It is similar to the digital vaccine record available through the state of California, but you may find the MyUCSDChart version easier to access, especially if you have proxy accounts through MyChart for children or other family members.

To access the QR code for your vaccine record or test results:

  • Log into MyUCSDChart or open the MyUCSDHealth app on a smartphone or tablet and select MyUCSDChart.
  • Go to the Menu. Under My Record, select "COVID-19." (You can also find vaccine records under Immunizations, but the QR codes and PDF downloads are not offered in that area of MyUCSDChart.)
  • Select "QR codes" to generate a QR code or select "Download/Export" to generate a PDF copy of your results

Updating your records: If you received one or both of your COVID-19 vaccine doses outside of UC San Diego Health, we may have already received vaccine records from other vaccination locations in California and automatically updated your medical records.

If not, you can send a message to your primary care provider through your MyUCSDChart account once you have received both doses. Log into MyUCSDChart and select "Messaging," then "Send a Message." Please attach a photo of your vaccine card and include the dates and the type of vaccine you received.

After Your Vaccination: Continue to Help Stop the Spread

It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine. Until then, follow CDC guidelines to protect yourself and others. You can also help by registering on the CDC's v-safe website to report daily health checks and any side effects.

After vaccination, we encourage you to continue taking safety precautions, especially in some public settings. For details, see steps to take after you're fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

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COVID-19 Vaccines for Your Children Ages 5–11

Which vaccine will my child get?

Currently, only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children in the U.S. The dosage depends on the child’s age on the day of vaccination, not on their weight.

  • Children ages 5 to 11 years receive one-third of the adult dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Smaller needles, designed specifically for children, are used.
  • Adolescents ages 12 years and older receive the same dosage of Pfizer vaccine as adults.

How do I schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for my child?

We are currently offering the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine to our patients in the 5-11 age range who have a MyUCSDChart account.

  • Eligible children ages 5 to 11 years who have an active MyUCSDChart account should have received a notification to schedule their vaccine appointment at a UC San Diego Health location, based on our vaccine supply of Pfizer child doses. If your child doesn’t have an account, you can sign up for a MyUCSDChart account.
  • You can schedule the second vaccine dose for your child using the same link provided for scheduling the first dose. Please keep a gap of three to six weeks between the two doses.
  • You can also schedule your child’s vaccine wherever you can get them in soonest. Vaccine appointments are also available at various locations around San Diego County — visit VaccineFinder or register on the state’s MyTurn website.
  • If you have more questions, please schedule an appointment with your primary care physician by calling 800-926-8273.
  • For vaccinating adolescents ages 12-18, call the number above or your child's primary care provider.

How many doses should my child receive, and how far apart should they be scheduled?

Two doses, given at least three weeks apart.

However, scheduling the second dose between three and six weeks after the first dose is reasonable within CDC guidelines. Although clinical trial data reflect a three-week gap between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, more recent research suggests that a longer gap between doses may offer stronger immunity.

Why should my child or teen get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Vaccinating your child is the best way of protecting them from serious COVID-19 illness. Research has shown that the COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective among children with no serious side effects, according to the CDC.

  • The COVID-19 vaccine can help protect children from short- and long-term health complications from COVID-19, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), in which parts of the body can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
  • COVID-19 infections in children can range from no symptoms to severe illness. However, data show that 30 percent of kids hospitalized with COVID-19 had no underlying medical conditions. It is also important to note that COVID-19 is a top 10 cause of death for kids in the United States.

Like all other vaccines given to school-aged children, the COVID-19 vaccine also helps keep your community safe by preventing your child from spreading the coronavirus to others.

What are the possible side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine for children?

Vaccine side effects are normal signs that the body is building protection. Your child may experience similar side effects as those in adults who received the vaccine, including fever, fatigue, headaches, chills, or muscle and joint pain. The most common side effect is soreness of the arm where the shot was given.

Studies show that more kids reported side effects after the second COVID-19 dose compared to the first dose. Experts do not expect long-term side effects.

How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine, considering the timing of its development, authorization and approval?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children, according to the CDC and medical experts. Also, serious health issues after COVID-19 vaccination are rare.

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone — and will continue to undergo — the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, and its benefits outweigh any known and potential risks. Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine, including the Pfizer vaccine.

These vaccines have gone through all three of the required phases before receiving authorization and approval. It was possible to complete the process in just nine months through a focus on expertise, resources and decades of previous work.

Should my children receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have had a COVID-19 infection?

Yes, we recommend that your children receive the COVID-19 vaccine — after they have fully recovered — even if they’ve had a COVID-19 infection. If your child received monoclonal antibody treatment, they should wait 90 days to get vaccinated.

The immunity after a COVID-19 infection can decrease over time, and the vaccine strengthens the immune response that further protects your child from a repeat infection.

Can my child get other vaccines, including the flu shot, at the same time?

Yes, your child may get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including the flu vaccine, at the same time.

Where can I get more information about COVID-19 vaccines for children?

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Getting Your Booster Vaccine Shot

Where can I get a COVID-19 booster dose?

UC San Diego Health offers COVID-19 booster vaccines to our patients who qualify. We have sent invitations via MyUCSDChart to certain groups of patients, based on CDC recommendations. You can log into your MyUCSDChart account and go to "Messages" to view your invitation and schedule your booster vaccine at one of our locations.

Eligible people may also find other convenient options in San Diego County, including local pharmacies, on the VaccineFinder site, the state's MyTurn website or by contacting their primary care provider.

If I’m immunocompromised, do I need an additional dose to boost my immunity?

Yes. We have sent MyUCSDChart invitations to our patients whose immune systems are moderately to severely compromised and who completed a two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series at least 28 days ago OR received a Johnson & Johnson dose at least 2 months ago. This group includes people who are getting active cancer treatment, recipients of organ or stem cell transplant and others with significantly weakened immune systems — see a full list of qualifying health conditions on the CDC website.

The vaccine brand used for the additional dose should be same as the vaccine used for the initial vaccine series, according to CDC guidelines. We encourage you to contact your health care provider about your medical condition and discuss whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for you.

How to schedule: If you're eligible and received a MyChart notification, log into your MyUCSDChart account and go to “Messages” to view your invitation and schedule your additional dose at one of our locations.

UC San Diego Health patients with questions about booster shots may call us at 800-926-8273.

Are booster shots the same formulation as existing vaccines?

Yes. COVID-19 booster shots are the same formulation as the current COVID-19 vaccines. However, the dosage of the Moderna COVID-19 booster is half that of the vaccine people get for their initial series.

Does my booster/additional dose have to be from the same company as my initial vaccine?

No. The CDC has authorized a mix-and-match approach, so you can select which brand of booster vaccine you want while scheduling your appointment. Currently, we are offering all approved boosters.

For immunocompromised people, however, the CDC recommends that the vaccine used for the additional dose should be same as the vaccine used for the initial vaccine series.

Are there side effects for the booster dose?

Any vaccine can have side effects. So far, the reactions reported after the additional dose have been similar to those after the two-shot series, and most symptoms were mild to moderate. See information for potential side effects for COVID-19 vaccine.

I had a breakthrough COVID-19 infection. Do I need to wait to get the booster?

If you had a vaccine breakthrough infection, it's recommended you wait at least 90 days from the date of your positive test to get your COVID-19 booster dose. A breakthrough infection happens when a fully vaccinated person (who has completed the initial vaccine series) gets infected with COVID-19.

Will I have to pay for the COVID-19 booster dose?

No. Based on federal government guidelines, you will not have to pay out of pocket for the vaccine. UC San Diego Health will collect insurance information, but there’s no out-of-pocket expense to patients.

Can I get my COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine at the same time?

Yes, but you have to schedule separate appointments for the approximate time at the same location for your flu shot and COVID-19 booster vaccine.

If I am NOT a current patient at UC San Diego Health, where can I get a booster dose?

For now, we are offering the additional dose only to patients who receive their medical care at UC San Diego Health.

Eligible people may find options, including local pharmacies, on the VaccineFinder site or the state's MyTurn website, or by contacting their primary care provider.

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Getting Your Initial Vaccine

I received my first dose through UC San Diego Health but still need a second dose. What do I do?

We are no longer scheduling appointments for first and second doses at UC San Diego Health locations. We encourage you to check the VaccineFinder site to schedule your second dose at a convenient location. You can also register on California state's MyTurn website or see the County of San Diego website

What is the recommended interval between initial vaccination doses? Are there any concerns if my second dose is delayed?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two initial doses, with an interval that the CDC currently says can be extended up to 42 days. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not require a second dose.)

However, infectious disease researchers and physicians at UC San Diego Health and UC San Diego School of Medicine, along with many other experts across the country, do not believe a delay in the recommended second dose beyond the 42-day interval negatively affects vaccination protection. Studies of the dosing interval for COVID-19 vaccines continue.

I received a COVID-19 vaccine somewhere other than UC San Diego Health. How do I update MyUCSDChart?

In many cases, we have already received vaccine records from other vaccination locations in California and automatically updated your medical records. To check, log into MyUCSDChart, go to the Menu and select COVID-19 or Immunizations and Screening under My Record.

If the record of your vaccine is not there, you can send a message to your primary care provider through MyUCSDChart after you have received both doses. Log into MyUCSDChart and select Messages, then Send a Message. Please include the dates you received the vaccine, the type of vaccine you received and a photo of your vaccine card.

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccination if I’ve had another recent vaccination (including tetanus shot, flu shot, pneumonia shot or shingles vaccine)?

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccination even if you had another recent vaccination.

Can I get a vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes. You can get vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19, but the ideal timing of receiving the vaccine remains unclear. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus is extremely uncommon within 90 days after initial infection, so we recommend waiting at least 90 days before getting vaccinated if you have had COVID-19.

However, there is no strict recommendation against getting vaccinated sooner than 90 days once you have recovered, but it is best to discuss your options with your doctor. The vaccine should not be given to anyone who is actively infected.

If you test positive or develop a COVID-19 infection after receiving your first dose of the vaccine, you can proceed with the second dose as scheduled, but only after you have recovered from the infection and have been formally cleared from any quarantine.

I had COVID-19 and received convalescent plasma or a monoclonal antibody therapy (such as Eli Lilly's bamlanivimab or Regeneron's casirivimab/imdevimab). Can I get a vaccine?

Yes, but you should wait until 90 days after your treatment. Based on current evidence, deferring vaccination for at least 90 days is a precautionary measure to avoid the antibody treatment interfering with the vaccine's induced immune responses.

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Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness

Why should I get a vaccine? Is it safe?

There are many benefits to getting vaccinated. All three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. have shown to be safe and very effective in reducing the risk of getting seriously ill even if you do get infected by the novel coronavirus.

No vaccine is 100 percent effective, so the more people in our communities who become vaccinated, the less the virus will circulate among us and the better protected we all will be.

So far, more than 758,000 people have died in the United States alone from COVID-19, including many who were young and did not have underlying medical conditions, as well as people who were not vaccinated. The risk of infection, hospitalization and death are all much lower in vaccinated people compared to the unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

Many people who survived COVID-19 have debilitating breathing, cardiac, kidney and neurological problems, even months after recovering from the immediate infection.

What are the potential side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Some people may experience side effects such as pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain or fever. The symptoms can be more intense, but they have not been observed as serious or long-lasting. Reactions to vaccines are common — they indicate the expected immune response. Experts say the vaccines are safe. Side effects may be more common after the second dose.

You should seek medical attention right away if you have any of the following symptoms several days after receiving the vaccine: shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling persistent abdominal pain, severe headaches or blurred vision, easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

How effective are current vaccines against new variants of the virus?

The vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. are highly protective against COVID-19, including against the delta variant and other recognized variants of the virus. Vaccinated people are protected not only against infection but also experience much milder illness if they do become infected. Of those currently hospitalized in the United States because of COVID-19 infection, the vast majority are unvaccinated.

Because there is still widespread COVID-19 disease on a global scale, the virus continues to have an opportunity to mutate. We need to stay vigilant, even though the vaccines are performing well against the current variants. The more people who are vaccinated, the less opportunity the virus will have the opportunity to infect, replicate and mutate. Getting vaccinated, therefore, protects people from disease and from complications in the rare instances of breakthrough infection, and protects the surrounding community from future surges of this infection.

Am I immediately protected from COVID-19 after vaccination?

No. People are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after a single-dose vaccine or two weeks after the second shot of a two-dose vaccine.

How long will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me? Will I need to get a shot every year?

That remains to be seen. The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, emerged only in late 2019. While much has been learned about the virus since then — and the development of vaccines has occurred with unprecedented speed — much else remains a mystery, including how long vaccine protection lasts and vaccine adaptation for virus mutations. The influenza virus mutates routinely and often, requiring annual, reformulated vaccines.

SARS-CoV-2 also mutates regularly, acquiring about one new mutation in its genome every two weeks. Many mutations do not fundamentally change the nature or behavior of the virus; some can actually make a virus less virulent. Nonetheless, new variants of the virus are causing concern. Research is ongoing on how effectively will the currently authorized vaccines protect people.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccines?

No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes the disease. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths.

How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines. These vaccines teach the body’s cells to make a harmless piece of a "spike protein" found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Once the protein piece is made and displayed on the cell’s surface, our body’s immune system recognizes that the protein doesn’t belong there and activates an immune response by producing antibodies. Then, if we are exposed to the virus later, our bodies are already prepared to fight it and help prevent us from getting sick.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine employs an older approach: A deactivated common cold virus is modified to carry the SARS-CoV-2's characteristic spike protein, which the virus uses to enter host cells. This vaccine "vector" is injected, and the presence of the spike protein prompts the human immune system to create neutralizing antibodies to block the targeted pathogen, essentially rendering subsequent exposures to the coronavirus as non-infectious.


Learn More About COVID-19 vaccines

Other COVID-19 Information from UC San Diego Health

  • For information about coronavirus testing, the precautions we're taking or other COVID-19 information for patients and visitors, go to health.ucsd.edu/covid.
  • If you need care for other reasons, please visit our Make an Appointment page.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information Videos in English and Spanish

Video: COVID-19 Booster and Vaccines: Doctor Answers Your Questions Video: Refuerzo y Vacunas COVID-19: Un Doctor Responde sus Preguntas Video: COVID-19 Vaccine: Ages 5 to 11

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