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COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Patients

Note: UC San Diego Health is offering additional/booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to immunocompromised patients and certain categories of qualified patients, based on CDC recommendations. See below for 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.

Additional/Booster Doses (Pfizer) for UC San Diego Health Patients

UC San Diego Health is offering booster COVID-19 doses to qualified patients whose initial vaccine series was from Pfizer and who meet eligibility guidelines based on CDC recommendations. At this time, we are vaccinating patients who receive their medical care at UC San Diego Health. At the vaccine site, you will be required to show a photo ID and your vaccination card (a physical or digital record).

We are offering only Pfizer booster doses currently. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters will be offered when they are authorized by the CDC — if you initially received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will not be able to receive Pfizer booster shots.

Eligible Groups

1. Qualified patients based on age and underlying medical conditions: To be eligible, you must belong to one of these groups (see CDC guidelines):

  • UC San Diego Health patients ages 65 years and older who completed their two-dose Pfizer series at least 6 months ago; or
  • UC San Diego Health patients between ages 18 and 64 with underlying medical conditions who completed their two-dose Pfizer series at least 6 months ago

We are starting with the 65+ age group. If you qualify, you'll receive a MyChart notification with details on how to schedule your booster appointment at one of our locations. If you're eligible, 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 don’t have a MyChart account, please contact your primary care provider’s office.

2. Immunocompromised patients: To qualify in this group, you must be:

  • A UC San Diego Health patient whose immune system is moderately to severely compromised and who completed your two-dose Pfizer vaccine series at least 28 days 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 full list of qualifying health conditions on the CDC website.

If you're an eligible immunocompromised patient, you’ll receive a MyChart notification with information to schedule your additional shot. Log into your MyUCSDChart account and go to “Messages” to view your invitation and schedule your additional dose at one of our locations. We encourage you to contact your health care provider about your medical condition and discuss whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for you.

Please note:

  • UC San Diego Health patients with questions about booster shots may call us at 800-926-8273.
  • You may find other options, including retail pharmacies, around San Diego County by visiting the VaccineFinder site or the state's MyTurn website. We encourage you to schedule an appointment wherever you can receive a vaccine the soonest at your convenience.
  • For more information, see FAQs on Getting Your Booster Vaccine Shot.

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 and select COVID-19 under My Record. (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

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 MyUCSDChart 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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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 immunocompromised patients and other patients who qualify, based on CDC guidelines.

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

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

Yes. The CDC recommends the additional dose should be the same vaccine as the first series (Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, whichever you received).

Currently, we are only offering Pfizer booster shots. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters will be offered when they are authorized by the CDC.

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 of the first and second shots, 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 three months 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 additional COVID-19 vaccine 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.

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 eligible patients who receive their medical care at UC San Diego Health.

Qualified people may find options, including local pharmacies, on the VaccineFinder site, 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 vaccination doses? Are there any concerns if my second dose is delayed?

Initial vaccine series: Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two 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.

Based on clinical trials data, the first dose of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provides a strong immune response approximately two weeks after inoculation. This strong protection persists for at least four to six weeks, and likely longer. In fact, experience with other vaccines indicates that boosting the initial immune response is even more effective when there is a longer interval between first and second doses. The original three-week and four-week intervals used during clinical trials and recommended by Pfizer and Moderna were based on an urgent need to generate data for FDA review and to accelerate the availability of vaccines during this pandemic.

Studies of the dosing interval for COVID-19 vaccines continue. The optimal interval length is not yet known, but experts at UC San Diego and throughout the scientific community are confident that a delay beyond cited interval times will not reduce the benefits of the second dose.

Booster dose: For the additional dose for certain immunocompromised people, the recommended time interval is at least 28 days between the second and third shots. For other people whose eligibility is based on age and underlying medical conditions, the recommended time interval is at least six months.

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)?

It’s recommended to wait at least 14 days between any other kind of vaccine and a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. However, there are some situations where the benefits of vaccination outweigh the unknown risks of a shorter wait between vaccines. Please talk to your doctor if you have concerns. If you do receive a COVID-19 vaccination within 14 days of another vaccine, you do not need to repeat any doses of either vaccine.

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.

Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness

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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 700,000 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.

Blood clots have occurred rarely in some people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In people who developed these blood clots, symptoms began approximately one to two weeks after vaccination, and most were women under 50 years of age.

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

Video: COVID-19 Booster and Vaccines: Doctor Answers Your Questions Video: Refuerzo y Vacunas COVID-19: Un Doctor Responde sus Preguntas

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