COVID-19 Vaccine for Local Residents: Here is What We Know

(As of March 5, 2021)

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

The availability of the COVID-19 vaccinations is a real turning point in the pandemic but with so many news headlines hitting us every day on the topic, it can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate the process. There are many questions around eligibility, how to register and what to expect at the testing site and after being vaccinated.

The COVID-19 vaccination is one of the most important tools to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, the vaccine is effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19, but it may help you from getting seriously ill if you do still get COVID-19 since you don’t know how it will affect you.

California has made it a priority to equitably distribute a

safe and effective vaccine to everyone in the state who wants it and there are expectations to have enough supplies to vaccinate most Californians by summer 2021. But for now, vaccinations are prioritized according to age and risk.

Available Vaccines

The two vaccines that have been made available thus far under Emergency Use Authorizations from the FDA to protect against COVID-19 is made by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other is made by Moderna. As of February 27, 2021, the FDA approved Johnson and Johnson’s (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the U.S. a third tool to fight the pandemic. Unlike Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, J&J’s one-dose regimen eliminates the need for patients to return for a second dose.

Eligibility

  • Phase 1A = Now vaccinating healthcare workers and long-term care residents
  • Phase 1B = Now vaccinating (as supplies allow) individuals 65 and older.   Sector populations in this group include agriculture and food, education and childcare, and emergency services

According to the CA Department of Public Health, beginning March 15th, healthcare providers may use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals age 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of one or more of the severe health conditions included in this provider bulletin

Schedule

For LA County residents: Healthcare workers and individuals 65+ can book appointments through VaccinateLACounty.com.  Residents with disabilities or those without computer access can call 833-540-0473 between 8 am-8:30 pm, 7 days per week. Appointments are also available in Spanish language.

To find vaccination locations in your county please visit CDC’s website VaccineFinder.com.

When booking your appointment, expect to provide your age, health status and health insurance details. You will also be asked to book your second vaccine appointment so have your calendar in front of you.

Most Californians will be vaccinated at hospitals, community vaccination sites and doctor offices only. Some people may think vaccines are available at their health plan offices, but they are not. Your health plan can help direct you to the appropriate vaccine site but are not locations to receive the actual vaccine at this time.

Many people who are not computer-savvy have difficulties navigating the scheduling, especially because you may not get an appointment the first time. For example, Inter Valley Health Plan member Dale Martinez, age 70, stated “the hardest part of the vaccine process was getting the appointment. I am pretty computer-savvy and regularly use my smartphone, but felt I needed some help. I reached out to my niece who had to check the LA County website every day and on a Sunday evening, she was able to book my appointment for the next day.”

So, don’t be afraid to seek help from family and friends at any time during this process.

Prep and Local Testing Locations

There are several vaccine locations that service Inland Empire residents but remember there are no walk-ins. You must have an appointment and when arriving, you must have the following items to verify your eligibility:

  • An ID or driver’s license
  • Health insurance ID card (sometimes required)
  • Proof of eligibility for the vaccine (see below)

Acceptable Documents for Proof Eligibility (Choose one)

  • Employee badge with photo
  • Professional license AND a photo ID
  • Signed letter from employer on facility letterhead AND a photo ID
  • Payment stub with your name AND a photo ID

If this appointment is for your second dose: (Choose one)

  • Vaccine record card AND a photo ID
  • Second dose referral letter AND a photo ID

Vaccination Locations by County:

  • Los Angeles County – The Fairplex (LA County Fairgrounds) make appointments through www.vaccinateLAcounty.com enter through Gate 15.
  • Riverside County – The Riverside Convention Center is a known vaccination test site at Lot 33.   The Palm Springs Convention Center is also open as a COVID-19 vaccine site for Riverside residents. More information here: https://www.RIVcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine

Inter Valley Health Plan member Dale Martinez secured her appointment at the Cal Poly site. She said “I made sure to show up a little early and there were several signs pointing me in the right direction so there was no confusion. This site is a walk-up site, and there were many employees there helping direct people where they needed to go. The entire process took about 20 minutes, five minutes to answer health questions and get the shot. Finally, there was 15 mins for observation. Luckily, this site had no lines or waiting time.”

Expectations from the vaccine

It is possible to have an allergic reaction to any vaccine— including the COVID-19 vaccine. Serious allergic reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare—- but talk to your doctor before getting your vaccine if you have a history of severe allergic reactions. It also might be helpful to reference the Pfizer and Moderna Fact Sheets on this website for information about side-effects.

Dale Martinez noted “after my first dose, I had moderate pain in my arm, but nothing concerning or that lasted a long time. My shot was at 5:30 in the evening and I felt completely fine the next morning.”

People are reporting more side-effects from the second dose. Some common side-effects after the second COVID-19 vaccine include arm pain, fever, chills, body aches, headaches, and fatigue. These are normal and expected symptoms, and a good sign that your body’s immune system is working. These symptoms should go away after a few days — usually around 48 to 72 hours.  So, be prepared to treat these symptoms like you would any cold or the flu:  drink lots of fluids, get lots of rest for the next few days and take Tylenol, if needed.

Cost

All the vaccines should be covered by public and private health insurance. For people without health insurance there will be no cost for the COVID-19 vaccine.

After Vaccination

Once you received your vaccine doses for COVID-19, you cannot assume that life will be back to ‘normal.’ Until we reach “full herd immunity” you and your loved ones are still at risk– so you need to be diligent to continue practicing safe behavior. Be sure and wear your mask in public places, use hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.  Keep a minimum of 6 feet distance from others and avoid large public crowds, as well.

The good news is, that with the number of positive COVID19 cases rapidly dropping combined with millions being vaccinated each week, we are edging closer to normalcy. Until then, remain active, healthy, stay social (even if done virtually) and continue to look for local resources to help you live a life full of vitality during the pandemic. 

Visit Inter Valley’s blog at  https://blogs.ivhp.com/blog-2/ for tips on health, lifestyle, Medicare Advantage and living a life full of vitality.

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