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How, where and when will I be able to get the vaccine in L.A.?

Here’s the latest from the county’s vaccination plans.

Michael Juliano

Already confused by the past year’s onslaught of reopening phases and tiers? Well, here’s yet another series of phases and tiers to familiarize yourself with.

Los Angeles County began offering Covid-19 vaccines to a limited number of residents in late 2020, and by the spring or summer of 2021 it should be available to the general public. Between now and then, there’ll also be a gradual phasing-in of people who can get it.

If you’re not actively following it, L.A.’s vaccine plans have been a bit overwhelming to keep up with, so we’ll cut right to exactly what you need to know.

When can I get the vaccine in Los Angeles?

The short version: Healthcare workers and nursing home residents can already get it, seniors and those who work in critical high-risk sectors can expect it starting in February, people with preexisting conditions beginning in March, and then the rest of the population in mid-May. All of these dates, of course, are just estimates for now.

The longer version: Based on CDC recommendations, California has created a vaccination plan that L.A. County is implementing, with date estimates—that are surely subject to change—for each group. Maybe because nobody wants to be part of the very long-way-away-sounding “Phase 5,” the groups are instead broken down into two large phases, with letter and tier separations within each.

The county has actually put together a pretty useful rundown of the tiers on its site, but we’ll summarize below.

All of these dates are subject to change and estimate when you’ll be able to get the first of two doses that you’ll need—more on that a little later.

Phase 1A (now)

A limited number of vaccinations for this first phase began in mid-December, and it’s now been extended to all tiers of the phase, which includes healthcare workers and residents at skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, as well as pretty much all other healthcare workers.

Phase 1B (early February)

This phase’s first tier kicks off with people over 65 (this was initially 75 and older, but based on state and CDC advice, the county has lowered this age) as well as those who work in education, childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture. By late March, it should have expanded to the second tier to cover those who work in transportation, manufacturing and industry and incarcerated and homeless persons.

Those 65 and older can sign up now for a vaccination appointment. Those in this age group are eligible to receive their vaccination starting on Thursday, January 21—but the county warns that supply will be very limited, with more expected to arrive over time. For residents who have questions but don’t have access to the internet, they can call 833-540-0473 (daily 8am–8:30pm).

Phase 1C (March)

There are no tier divisions for this one; starting in March and by early May, all people 50 and up, as well as those between the ages of 16 and 49 with preexisting conditions and people who work in government and critical infrastructure sectors, should be able to get vaccinated.

Phase 2 (mid-May)

Call this phase “almost everyone else.” The timeline and specifics are fuzziest for this one, but the county expects people aged 16 to 49 years old without high-risk medical conditions to begin to receive the vaccine by mid-May or early June.

How will I know it’s my turn?

There’s no catch-all queueing or notification app or site yet, but the state says it’ll be launching one very soon. In the meantime Public Health suggests signing up for its vaccine newsletter. You can also try contacting your healthcare provider.

Where will I be able to get the vaccine?

For Phase 1A, vaccinations have been carried out on-site at hospitals and residential facilities as well as at a few vaccination centers. But for future groups, expect this to expand to primary care clinics, pharmacies and at vaccination sites—in fact, the city is already turning Dodger Stadium, its largest testing site, into a massive vaccination site, and the county is doing the same with Fairplex, the Forum and Six Flags, among other spots (outside of the county, Disneyland is doing the same).

How much does it cost?

Nothing. The vaccine and its administration are free.

How many shots do I need?

For the two vaccines available right now, you’ll need two doses, administered 21 days apart for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 28 days apart for the Moderna vaccine. Johnson & Johnson is also readying a single-dose shot that’s expected to receive FDA approval in February.

I’ve already had Covid-19. Do I still need a vaccine?

Yes. The California Department of Public Health notes that it’s not clear yet how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from Covid-19.

Do I still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing once I’ve been vaccinated?

Yes. While clinical trials have proven the vaccines to trigger an effective immune response, we still don’t know how that translates into the real world—perhaps most importantly, we don’t know yet if it’ll prevent you from spreading the virus to others. So you’ll still be subject to all of the state’s and county’s rules on mask wearing, social distancing and quarantining.

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