Q&A about the COVID vaccine

How do I get the vaccine? 

At press time, vaccinations are available to people over 65 years old, or people who work in education (teachers, school employees, school bus drivers) and in agriculture and the food industry, as well as people with underlying health issues. As more vaccines become available, the state will start lowering the age limit for vaccine eligibility.

To find out if you’re eligible for vaccination, call your health care provider to schedule first and second doses, or register on MyTurn.ca.gov.

Can I still get sick even after I receive the vaccine?

Yes. While the vaccine has a high rate of success, no COVID-19 vaccine is currently 100 percent effective. While there is still a small chance you can contract COVID-19 even after vaccination, the vaccine will keep you from getting very sick, will keep you out of the ICU, and will save your life. Because of this, it is likely OK for small groups of vaccinated people to get together without protection in an “immunity bubble.” However, wear your mask when you leave your house, even if you have been vaccinated fully.

Can I get someone else sick even after I’ve been vaccinated?

It’s not yet 100 percent clear if people who are vaccinated can still transmit the disease to those who are not vaccinated. That’s why it’s critical for everyone to continue to maintain physical distance, wear masks, and wash hands until the U.S. has reached herd immunity. That could happen as soon as late summer or early fall if enough people get vaccinated.

With so many coronavirus variants, should I still get the vaccine now or should I wait for a variant vaccine?

Get vaccinated as soon as you are able. The vaccines we have now are still effective against the variants and we don’t know when variant vaccines might be available. It is possible that variant vaccines will be offered as a booster to the original vaccine in the future.

Should I still get the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes. Evidence shows the variants can infect people who have already contracted COVID-19. Also, we are not sure how long immunity from natural infection will last (beyond a few months). Vaccine-induced immunity is more reliable. That’s why it’s more important than ever for those who have already had COVID-19 to be vaccinated, too.

How long will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me?

Immunization against COVID-19 will help protect you for the near future, but it’s still not clear how long the protection will last. The current thinking is that immunity will last at least between 5 and 10 months, likely longer. As variants spread, booster shots may become increasingly necessary in certain geographic areas, or more widely.

When will life return to normal?

We don’t know yet. Vaccine manufacturers are making and distributing millions of doses of the vaccines, but they won’t all be ready at once. That’s why certain high-risk groups are getting them first. While the vaccines are highly effective, we will only manage the pandemic if enough people take them locally – and globally.

Until then, it’s important to remember the 4Ws: wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, and watch the wind (pay attention to ventilation).


These answers were supplied by Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center to the group Our Health California. For more information, go to: ourhealthcalifornia.org.