COVID-19 Vaccines: Frequently Asked Questions

The County of San Mateo is committed to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine. Here are answers to frequently asked questions.

Updated 4/14/21


How can I get notified when I’m eligible / it’s my turn?

Sign up here for San Mateo County Health’s vaccine updates. When more vaccine supplies become available, you will be notified for a possible appointment. This notification system’s intended use is to create a contact network of those that are eligible to receive vaccination. This notification system is meant as an interim strategy as the State of California assembles a statewide Covid-19 vaccine notification system called MyTurn, which will offer online appointment scheduling notifications for our area soon.

Who’s eligible to get the vaccine now?

As vaccination eligibility expands in California to 16+, County Health continues to focus on small, targeted clinics in communities in need, as vaccine supply remains limited. Until we receive increased supply of vaccine, we are not able to offer vaccination more broadly. Residents should contact their health care provider or major pharmacies about vaccine appointments

Can you give me contact information for my health care provider?

Here in San Mateo County, the largest health care providers are: 

Kaiser: 866-454-8855. 

Sutter Health: 844-987-6115. 

Stanford Health: 650-498-9000. 

• Blue Shield members are asked to go to visit their website for the latest information

• If you are a veteran, please check with the Veterans Administration about your eligibility. 

I don't have health insurance. What do I do?

Insurance is available -- regardless of immigration status. Call our Health Coverage Unit at 650-616-2002 to speak to an enrollment counselor. 

For residents without health insurance but who do have a health care provider (including patients at San Mateo Medical Center), please contact your health care provider. Insurance is not required for you to receive the vaccine. 

Vaccine Basics

On March 17th, San Mateo County was placed in the Orange tier by the state. What activities are allowed in this tier?

San Mateo County follows state guidance for activities allowed within tiers. On March 17, the state placed our county in Tier 3 (Orange), which is described as “moderate.” Click here to learn more about allowed activities in the Orange tier. You can also visit the state’s site here. On that page, type “San Mateo” in the box marked “County” to view activities and restrictions.

Why should I get the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are meant to significantly reduce the chances of your getting COVID-19, and if you do become infected, the impact will be mild. The ability of COVID-19 vaccines to protect us from spreading the virus to others is not fully known but is being studied carefully. 

I've had COVID-19. Should I still get a vaccine?

Yes. At this time, we do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The CDC advises those who have had COVID-19 to be vaccinated. 

How many COVID-19 vaccine shots are needed?

The current guidelines are two doses for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, 21 days apart. Two doses for the Moderna vaccine, 28 days apart. The Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine only requires one dose. Future vaccines may require only one dose. You should get your second shot as close to the recommended 3-week or 1-month interval as possible. However, there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval. There is no need for a second dose of the Janssen vaccine.

Are there certain groups that should not get the COVID-19 vaccine?


• Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose should not get the second dose. 

• Children under 16, at this time. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in teens 16 to 17 years. Moderna is approved for ages 18 and older. Clinical trials are currently being conducted for children and more information will be available later.  

According to the CDC, you should talk with a doctor first before getting a COVID-19 shot if you: 

• Have severe allergies or carry an epinephrine (Epi-Pen, Auvi-Q, etc.) injector 

• Have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injections 

• Are immunocompromised, such as if you are HIV-positive 

• Have a moderate to severe illness or are feeling sick (in which case, you should likely wait to get vaccinated) 

I want to know more about the County's vaccination plan. Where do I find it?

San Mateo County Health has a detailed vaccination plan available here. This page includes details about the County’s commitment to the equitable distribution of vaccine. 

How are you ensuring equitable distribution of vaccine?

San Mateo County and the state of California have made equity a key priority of local vaccine distribution. 

Our communities of color, low-income communities, older adults, and other impacted populations face many barriers to vaccine acceptance and access. We are currently involved in a community engagement effort to learn from leaders closest to our most impacted communities. For more information about acknowledging the impact of medical distrust, click here. We look forward to hearing from community leaders about their needs and concerns so we can respond, plan accordingly, and adjust as we learn. 

Read more about our focus on equity in vaccine distribution

Safety and Effectiveness

Will the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain coronavirus and cannot give you COVID-19. Go to this link for more information from the CDC

Is the vaccine safe?

COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA have been shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials. Here’s the link to the CDC information on vaccine safety

With the announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration regarding concerns about of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) in combination with low levels of blood platelets in a small number of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine recipients, San Mateo County Health is pausing the use of the Janssen vaccine in all of its operations. County Health has also directed its vaccinating partners, including hospitals and local clinics, to suspend use of the Janssen vaccine until it is officially cleared by CDC/FDA.

How effective are the vaccines?

The first two vaccines available have shown 94% efficacy against a person becoming ill with COVID-19. Here’s a link for more information on how effective the vaccines are

Can pregnant or breastfeeding women be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yes. Pregnant women have a higher risk for complications from COVID-19 disease. There are no study results available yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. However, experts believe that the vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the woman or the fetus. 

Pregnant women can talk with a doctor about their risk of COVID-19 disease and how they might benefit from vaccination. Read more at the California Department of Public Health's COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know



How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

No cost to you. COVID-19 vaccines, including their administration, are free. If any person or organization tries to charge you for a vaccine, contact the District Attorney's Office.


What To Expect: After the Vaccine

What should I expect after getting vaccinated?

Vaccines help our immune system fight infections in the future. COVID-19 vaccines will protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19 without having to get the illness. 

It typically takes a few weeks after the last dose in a series for you to become fully protected. On the days after taking the vaccine, you may have a sore arm, aches, fatigue or fever, but these are not harmful. These symptoms signal that your immune system is developing protection from the virus.

Visit the CDC for more information on possible vaccine side effects by going to

Does being vaccinated mean I can visit my loved ones and friends without risking our health?

You’re fully vaccinated 2 weeks after getting the second dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after one dose of the Janssen vaccine. Once fully vaccinated, you are able to:

  • Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask;
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks if there is no one in that household who is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19;
  • Skip testing or quarantining if you have been around someone who has COVID-19 unless you feel symptoms.

Please note that if you live in a group setting (group home, correctional facility) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you will need to stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms. Click here for more information

Even with a vaccine you may still be able to spread COVID-19. Even after vaccination, you should continue to follow all of the guidelines from the State and the County:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet from others not in your household
  • Avoid crowds
  • Avoid poorly ventilated areas
  • Wash your hands often


If I am fully vaccinated and get exposed to a person who is positive for COVID-19, do I still have to quarantine?

According to the CDC, being fully vaccinated offers some protection. Vaccinated people who have been exposed to a person suspected or confirmed with COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if the meet the following:

  • At least two weeks have passed since their second dose of a 2-dose vaccine or at least two weeks have passed since receiving a one-dose vaccine;  
  • Are within 3 months of the last dose of vaccine; AND 
  • Have had no symptoms since the current exposure.  

IF you don’t meet all three of the above criteria, you should follow the quarantine guidance  

For more information, please go to

COVID-19 Info
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