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?

General alert: While Berkeley, Alameda County and the state continue to open up eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to more groups, the limited supply of vaccines into California is still making it difficult for many people to find available appointments. Best advice is to check vaccine sites regularly and to sign up for alerts (see below for details). It can be frustrating: be prepared to have to try signing up for appointments multiple times, and for error messages when sites are overwhelmed.

On Feb. 15 the city of Berkeley expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations coordinated through the City to include all those who live or work in Berkeley who are currently employed in grocery stores, convenience stores, or in-person education and childcare settings. Those who fit into one of these groups, as well as Berkeley residents who are at least 65, can register for appointments at a vaccination site at the foot of Buchanan Street in Albany. Appointments.

Alameda County is currently vaccinating people in Tiers 1a and 1B, which includes health care workers, people over 65, teachers, those working in law enforcement or emergency services, in the food and agricultural industries, and those in the childcare industry. Register at the county website to be notified when you are eligible. Or sign up for the Coliseum mass vaccination site at My Turn. See Where to get vaccinated section.


Starting March 15, California will expand eligibility for who can get the vaccine to younger people with disabilities and severe underlying health conditions. Those conditions include people with cancer, COPD, Down syndrome, chronic kidney disease at stage 4, sickle cell anemia, heart conditions, severe obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and organ transplant patients who have a weakened immune system. Pregnant women are also included in this group.

Alameda County has created 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.

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


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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. Here is a rundown of where shots are being given out and for which groups of people:

Mass vaccination sites open now

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

Kaiser Permanente is following state guidelines and has appointments for healthcare workers, long-term care patients and staff, and people 65 years and older. Greg A. Adams, the CEO, said in a statement that the organization is also now scheduling appointments many weeks out. Sign up here.

Kaiser has a mass vaccination clinic, open to all, at Moscone Center South in San Francisco. To make an appointment there, go to MyTurn. To make an appointment at another Kaiser facility, call 866-454-8855. Your eligibility will be confirmed before an appointment is made. Kaiser recommends checking back on its website for updates and plans to offer a new online tool to schedule vaccination appointments. Kaiser does not have a waitlist or cancellation list. 

Sutter Health is currently vaccinating healthcare workers and patients who are 65  years of age and older. Supplies are limited, though, and Sutter suggests checking back if you are unable to book an appointment. Book appointments through My Health Online, on this website, or by calling 844-987-6115, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Stanford Health Care is currently scheduling appointments for patients who have received care at Stanford Health Care at least once in the last three years, are 65 years and older, and live in Alameda County, according to its website. You can schedule an appointment to get vaccinated at Stanford Health Care locations in Emeryville or Pleasanton by creating an account through Stanford Health Care’s MyHealth system, or by calling 650-498-9000, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Washington Township Medical Foundation, located in Fremont, is currently vaccinating patients who are 65 years and older who have used Washington Hospital Healthcare System services at least once since Jan. 26, 2020. If you qualify, you can set an appointment by calling 510-248-8200.

Private 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 65 and older. BACH serves residents of southern Alameda County.

Pharmacies

Safeway is offering vaccines in Berkeley and Alameda County to those who are currently eligible. More info here.

CVS Pharmacy is now vaccinating people 65 and older at its Berkeley stores. People 65 and older can register here, but the site warns that wait times are long and the supply is limited. 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. More info here. 

Rite Aid pharmacies around California, including in Oakland, are dispensing vaccines to over health workers, people over 65 and others. Check here to see if you are eligible and to make an appointment.

UC Berkeley

Vaccination through the UC Berkeley health system began in mid-January with Moderna vaccine allocated by UCOP for Phase 1a healthcare staff. At the end of January, it began Tier 1 of Phase 1b, inviting in UCB employees at highest risk of severe disease: age 65+ currently working on campus, as well as all UCB employees age 75 and older. During the month of February, it is working its way through the rest of Phase1b as vaccine allocations allow. It is only receiving 700 doses weekly, however, which, it says, “is obviously not enough to offer vaccine broadly and to all groups at once.” See latest information and data on the University Health Services website.

Alameda County

“Vaccine distribution through Alameda County Points of Dispensing (PODs) will be prioritized for individuals from communities with disproportionally high COVID case rates and those who are older, disabled, uninsured, or facing high risk of exposure because of where they live or work,” according to a press release.

While more people will be able to access the vaccine, supplies will still be tight and it will take a few months to get through Phase 1b Tier 1, according to officials. Register at the county website to be notified when you are eligible.

Officials are encouraging people to try scheduling an appointment through their healthcare provider to get vaccinated, when possible. A few frustrating things you should know, based on the experiences of some seniors:

  • You may have to wait on hold for a long time
  • You may have to call several times before you can get through to someone
  • When you show up for your appointment, you may have to wait in a long line, even if you have an appointment
  • If you can ask a friend or family member to help you make or go to an appointment, you may want to consider reaching out
  • Even if you call to make an appointment, you, unfortunately, may not be able to make one because the vaccine supply is still very limited

How will people be notified that they’re eligible for a vaccine?

Berkeley: Berkeley has established a “COVID-19 vaccine interest list.” Sign up to be notified when a vaccine might be available. Vaccines are in limited supply and, as of Jan. 25, the city is only vaccinating people 75 and older and healthcare workers in Berkeley who have not yet received the vaccine through their employer or their healthcare provider.

Alameda County: The county released two sign-up forms this week for residents and employers to express interest in being notified when they’re eligible for the vaccine. The form asks for basic information, like your name, age, zip code, insurance provider, and contact information. The Alameda County Public Health Department will reach out to you when it’s your turn to get vaccinated.

The county will advertise these sign-up forms “on as many different platforms as we can, in the newspaper and on the radio and everything else,” according to Dr. Kathleen Clanon, There will also be a telephone number for people to sign up. In case the county’s system becomes overwhelmed —like it did on Wednesday, leading to the form becoming inaccessible—the state announced that it’s releasing its own, similar system. This system should be launched next week, and then will be used to help counties and cities run mass public vaccination events.

California The state’s system My Turn asks for information like the county you reside in, your job sector, age and underlying health conditions. My Turn also allows providers to maintain their health records and report the administration of doses quickly to the state and counties.

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, recently 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 decides the order of vaccinations?

Alameda County and Berkeley are administering vaccines based on the state’s prioritization framework, which follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations. Vaccines are distributed in an order based on what kind of work you do, your risk of exposure to COVID-19, and then your age and underlying medical conditions. The federal government, state government, and local public health agencies all work together to roll out the vaccines. The chart below, from Alameda County’s FAQ page, breaks down what each agency does.

Image: Alameda County Health Care Services Agency

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.

How is eligibility proven?

According to county spokesperson Neetu Balram, people will need to provide photo identification, registration confirmation, and employment verification, like a pay stub, work badge, or employer list, at vaccination appointments. “We recognize ID could be a barrier to getting vaccinated as we move along in the phases, so we are reviewing how else we can ask individuals to attest that they are in the phase that is being vaccinated and not jumping the line,” said Balram. The county also acknowledged the challenge of verifying people with high-risk conditions and has not yet determined how they will handle those cases.

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?

Not at this time. Currently, people will be vaccinated with either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech doses, depending on the supply. Both your first and second doses will deliver the same vaccine.

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 will unhoused people get COVID-19 vaccines in Berkeley?

The county will lean on its street medicine program to vaccinate unsheltered and unhoused people where they are located. “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.

How is Alameda County making sure vaccines are distributed equitably?

The county says it is factoring in race and ethnicity, geography, socioeconomic factors, and critical populations, along with age and zip code. Aneeka Chaudhry of the county health system said the state has been referring to the California Healthy Places Index as part of their equity measure for reopening. The index is an interactive tool that shows the impact of socioeconomic and environmental factors on public health. The index shows stark health inequities in West Oakland and most of East Oakland. Because of this, the county could recommend prioritizing these neighborhoods.

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