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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Eric Garcetti

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
Written by
Michael Juliano
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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 April 15, 2021 it will be available to most of the general public.

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.

How will I know it’s my turn to get the vaccine?

The state operates a site called My Turn where you can enter some basic info to find out if you’re part of the current vaccination tier; if you’re not, you can sign up for text or email notifications, and then schedule an appointment when it’s your turn.

L.A. County Public Health also suggests signing up for its vaccine newsletter, and you can try contacting your healthcare provider, as well.

So when can I actually get the vaccine in Los Angeles?

The short version: After a tier-based approach that started with healthcare workers, seniors, specific job sectors and people with certain pre-existing conditions, anybody 16 and up will be able to get a vaccine on April 15—though the county expects it’ll take until the end of June to actually finish administering all of those shots.

The longer version: Based on CDC recommendations, California has created a vaccination plan that L.A. County is implementing.

The county worked its way through the first couple of tiers of its plans, but the entire framework is about to change very soon once the state opens up shots to all.

A limited number of vaccinations began in mid-December for healthcare workers and and nursing home residents and staff. Then appointments opened up to people over 65, followed by people in particular sectors of the economy, then adults with high-risk preexisting conditions and then people 50 and older. In addition, the state is now allowing family members of those getting vaccinated to get a shot at the same time, as well—but you may not find this at every site.

On April 15, though, you won’t really have to worry about any of those eligibility requirements anymore: Anyone 16 and up will be able to register for an appointment. You’ll be able to start making appointments on My Turn on April 14 for clinics operated by the county. Just a heads up that only the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for 16 and 17 year olds.

However, the City of Los Angeles, which runs seven sites, has already opened up appointments to anyone 16 and up (even if you live outside city limits, you can still get a shot at a City of L.A. site). Pasadena and Long Beach, which both operate their own health departments, have already opened up appointments to residents of those cities who are 16 and older.

But how do I actually get an appointment?

Alright, buckle in, since this isn’t quite as simple as it probably should be.

Those currently eligible can sign up now for a vaccination appointment. This link leads to L.A. County’s website, which includes a pretty good rundown about all of the different appointment systems that are operated within the county. For residents who have questions but don’t have access to the internet, they can call 833-540-0473 (daily 8am–8:30pm).

The state-operated My Turn is the most robust option, as it includes appointments at sites run by L.A. County Public Health, FEMA, a handful of hospitals and supermarkets like Albertsons, Pavilions and Vons. Appointments for people 16 and up will be available on My Turn starting on April 14.

The City of Los Angeles uses Carbon Health for its seven sites, and those 16 and up can already sign up for a slot.

After those two, though, it’s kind of a mess of appointment links. Kaiser Permanente (which is open to all, not just members), CVSRalphs, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart and Costco all host their own appointment systems.

But if you want to make your life a bit easier, we suggest using one these scrapers and bots. Find My Vax L.A. is one of our favorites: It pulls in appointments from a whole mix of registration systems, and you just plug in your zip code and it’ll show you the closest sites and what days each one has availability (and will link you to the relevant appointment website for that location). There’s a Twitter bot that posts every time a new appointment is added to the site, but be prepared to see a tweet every couple of minutes.

The CDC’s Vaccine Finder will show you whether or not an individual pharmacy has appointments available, and you can even filter by the type of vaccine they’re administering. But we think the community-run Vaccine Spotter offers a superior experience with rapidly updated inventory.  

How much does it cost?

Nothing. The vaccine and its administration are free.

How many shots do I need?

For two of the 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. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, only a single dose is needed.

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 and social distancing (though you won’t have to quarantine when traveling back to L.A. once you’re vaccinated).

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