The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Berkeley: Your questions answered

Who’s next in line, where to get a shot, and more answers to your questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccination injected into arm
Photo: Christian Emmer/Creative Commons

Find answers here to all your questions about how the COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed in Berkeley and Alameda County. Have more questions? Ask Berkeleyside.

Who is getting vaccinated right now?

Anyone 16 and over, regardless of residence, can get a free COVID-19 vaccine at Berkeley’s Golden Gate Fields mass vaccination site while it is still open, without an appointment. And, on May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to be given to anyone age 12 or older.

Your healthcare provider should also be providing free vaccinations.

The federal government’s vaccines.gov offers a text service. Text your zip code to 438829 and you immediately get back a list of local sites with vaccine availability.


Tracking the roll-out

Alameda County has a COVID-19 dashboard that shows the number of vaccines administered, how many people have gotten their first shots, how many have gotten their second shots, the gender and ages of those who have been vaccinated, and more. The dashboard includes information on Berkeley, which has its own health department, too. The website also includes VaccinateCA data into its website to show where vaccines are reportedly available. It shows mostly pharmacies, but also includes which community health clinics are vaccinating beyond their clients and links when appointments are necessary.

Berkeley provides a weekly snapshot, updated every Friday, about how many vaccines Berkeley Public Health has received and how many people have been vaccinated.

Where are people getting vaccinated?

California and Alameda County have been rolling out mass vaccination sites in order to speed up the number of people getting the shots. See a list of vaccination sites accessible by public transit, and special rider promotions currently serving each site. Below is a rundown of where shots are being given out and for which groups of people:

Mass vaccination sites

GOLDEN GATE FIELDS

Berkeley and Alameda County have a mass vaccination clinic at Golden Gate Fields, and the city opens up additional appointments when they’re available. Be warned: the appointments fill up quickly.

OAKLAND COLISEUM

The Oakland Coliseum, which is serving as a mass vaccination site, is run and staffed by the federal government and aims to do 6,000 vaccinations a day. There are no residency requirements, but the site will be vaccinating those in Tier 1b, which includes people over 65, teachers, those working in the food and agricultural industries, and those in the childcare industry. Register online at MyTurn.ca.gov.

MOSCONE CENTER 

San Francisco has opened a mass vaccination site in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente at Moscone Center South. You do not need to be a Kaiser member to get a shot. You do not need to be a San Francisco resident. Vaccinations are available to frontline health care workers and those over 65. Sign up at the MyTurn website. (On Feb. 14, San Francisco announced that it had run out of vaccines for this site. The city hopes to reopen it later in the week).

ALAMEDA COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS

The Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton is open for COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with Stanford Health Care, Valley Care and Sutter Health, but only for eligible patients with a pre-scheduled appointment as supplies are “extremely limited.”  Full details at Alameda County Fairgrounds website.

HOSPITALS

John Muir Health in Walnut Creek and Contra Costa County is currently vaccinating eligible John Muir Health patients. The HMO says it will reach out to eligible patients on their MyChart account. More info here.

Sutter Health is currently vaccinating eligible patients, though first-dose appointments are hard to get. Patients can book appointments through My Health Online or by calling 844-987-6115.

Kaiser Permanente is currently vaccinating its members. If you are eligible for a vaccination but not a member, you will need to obtain an appointment, if available, and a medical record number by calling Kaiser at 866-454-8855. Kaiser recommends checking back on its website for updates.

Stanford Health Care is currently scheduling appointments for people over 18 through the MyHealth system. Individuals who are aged 16-17 can schedule their vaccination with Stanford Children’s Health.

CLINICS

LifeLong Medical Care

Lifelong is currently scheduling vaccination appointments for established patients for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.  Lifelong Medical Care is reaching out to its patients who are eligible.

Bay Area Community Health

Bay Area Community Health is vaccinating existing patients who are 16 and older (Those aged 16-18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian with written delegation.) BACH serves residents of southern Alameda County.

PHARMACIES

CVS Pharmacy is vaccinating at its Berkeley stores. Register online. Those eligible can also call 800-746-7287 or get an appointment through the CVS Pharmacy app.

Walgreens is offering limited appointments to people who are currently eligible in California. Schedule online.

Rite Aid pharmacies around California, including in Oakland, are dispensing vaccines. Make an appointment.

UC BERKELEY

Vaccination through the UC Berkeley health system began in mid-January with Moderna vaccine Check the University Health Services website for current vaccination details.

ALAMEDA COUNTY

Alameda Health System is offering vaccines to AHS patients who are 16+. The vaccine are being offered at all four AHS Wellness Centers:

· Highland Campus: 1411 E 31st St., Highland Care Pavilion, 3rd floor

· Eastmont Wellness: 6955 Foothill Blvd #200

· Hayward Wellness: 664 Southland Mall, Hayward

· Newark Wellness: 6066 Civic Terrace Ave, Newark

Make an appointment by calling 510-437-8500.

I need help getting to my appointment

East Bay Paratransit: For those who are eligible for the service, East Bay Paratransit will transport people to their vaccination appointments at the Coliseum with proof of the appointment from the MyTurn system for the standard fare.

AC Transit‘s fare-free vaccine shuttle to the Oakland Coliseum vaccination site is running temporarily May 3 to May 9. The shuttle operates every 15 minutes directly from Coliseum BART to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum’s Pedestrian Village.

Lyft rides: To help loved ones get to vaccine appointments, rideshare app Lyft launched “Rides for Others,” which is now available nationwide. Here’s how to send a ride to someone else using “Rides for Others”:

  • Tap the search bar on the home screen of your Lyft app
  • Tap the ‘Me’ button at the top of the next screen, then tap ‘Add rider’ and follow the prompts
  • Enter the pickup location and destination, and send them on their way. (You can track their ride from your app.)
  • The ride recipient must have their own Lyft account and will see ride details in their Lyft app

Read Lyft’s Health and Safety policies to learn how Lyft says it keeps its drivers and riders safe during rides.

How many vaccines will Alameda County need to reach herd immunity?

Many public health experts agree that herd immunity—where the virus can’t easily spread through a community because enough people are immune to it—is an important next step towards overcoming the pandemic. One way of achieving this is by vaccinating as many people as possible. Aneeka Chaudhry, a director with the county health agency, said that “as high as 80 to 90% of the population in Alameda County” would need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. This includes Berkeley.

Who is in charge of distributing vaccines?

The health department of Alameda County makes the final decision about when different groups of people will get the vaccine. It is also responsible for carrying out the state’s plan, and for coordinating each phase of vaccine distribution.

Berkeley Public Health (BPH) does not have oversight over local hospitals. While BPH was initially in charge of putting in orders for Alta Bates, the hospital system is now fulfilling its own orders, said Chakko. A countywide community vaccine advisory group called COVAX, which had its first meeting in December, provides Alameda County with input on distribution and prioritization, as well as ideas about how to communicate about the vaccine and combat misinformation.

Is it free to get vaccinated?

Vaccinations are free for all, including people who do not have medical insurance. Vaccine providers can recoup fees from private and public insurance companies, and from a government fund for people without insurance, according to the CDC.

Can I choose which brand of vaccine to take?

No. Currently, people are being vaccinated with the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (which is back in use in Alameda County after it was paused nationally after a handful of recipients experienced blood clots), depending on the supply.

Here are the FDA’s factsheets that offer more details:

I’m undocumented. Will I be able to get vaccinated?

You won’t need to be a U.S. citizen to receive the vaccine, per the county’s FAQ page.

How are unhoused people getting COVID-19 vaccines in Berkeley?

The county is leaning on its street medicine program to vaccinate unsheltered and unhoused people where they are located and has been visiting encampments around the city. “The tough part is folks not living in a large encampment, but tucked away in one or two tents,” said Dr. Kathleen Clanon. Unsheltered residents in Berkeley can also get the vaccine from their healthcare provider if they have access to one.

Supriya Yelimeli, Frances Dinkelspiel and Tracey Taylor contributed reporting to this story, a version of which originally appeared on The Oaklandside.