East Bay Getting to Zero

What’s up with COVID vaccines?

Updated May 2, 2023

Everyone ages 6 months and over can get a free COVID-19 vaccine, even if you don’t have insurance or immigration papers.

Updated bivalent vaccines with protection against the Omicron variants are recommended for everyone ages 6 months and over who had their last vaccine dose or infection 2+ months ago. Real-world data shows that bivalent boosters add significant protection against hospitalization, symptomatic and severe infection.

Additional bivalent boosters are authorized for people ages 65+ four months after their first bivalent dose, and for people ages 5+ who are immunocompromised two months after their previous bivalent dose.

Get a free vaccine and updated booster today at:

The best way to protect yourself and community against serious illness from highly contagious variants is to get vaccinated, boosted and wear a mask. Vaccines remain highly effective against severe disease and death from the Omicron variant. Through March 2023, people who got the bivalent booster had a 6x lower risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to those who didn’t get vaccinated and 1.4x lower risk of dying compared to vaccinated people who didn’t get the bivalent booster. Get a booster now if you haven’t yet!

Key vaccine updates:

  • Vaccines are recommended for all people ages 6 months and over, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, wanting to get pregnant now or in the future.
  • Updated vaccination guidelines:
  • People may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose using the “mix and match” approach. Everyone, especially those who got a single J&J dose, is recommended to get a Moderna or Pfizer booster. Data shows better protection against hospitalization with Omicron with mRNA boosters after a J&J dose.
  • The Novavax spike protein 2-dose vaccine was authorized in July 2022 for ages 12+ for primary vaccination at some locations; check MyTurn.ca.gov or Vaccines.gov.
  • Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines have earned full FDA approval.
  • What’s up ahead for vaccines? Nasal vaccines are in development to provide better mucosal immunity against infection and long COVID. “Variant-proof” pan-coronavirus vaccines are also in development.
  • Need proof of vaccination? Visit the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record site to request your digital vaccination card.

Real-world data from US studies from winter 2022-2023 show that the bivalent booster provided:

  • 73% additional protection against COVID hospitalization compared with past monovalent mRNA vaccination only for people ages 65 and over. (IVY network of US hospitals)
  • 31-50% additional protection against COVID emergency department/urgent care visits for people who previously received 2, 3, or 4 monovalent doses. 31% if the last dose was 2-4 months ago and 50% if the last dose was 12+ months ago. (VISION network of US hospitals)
  • 28-61% additional protection against symptomatic infection, depending on age, how many doses received and how long ago the last dose was.
  • Boosters are important due to waning of vaccine efficacy by 4 months against hospitalization in all age groups: 68% to 27% efficacy from 2 to 4 months in ages 18-64 (compared to unvaccinated) and 64% to 53% to 39% efficacy from 2 to 4 to 6 months after vaccination for people ages 65+. Protection against ventilation or death was better preserved: 76% to 54% from 6 months to 12 months after vaccination. (Link-Gelles, CDC ACIP April 2023 meeting)

How do we get a COVID vaccine?

For people under 18, there are several ways to provide consent (click on the infographic for more details):

  • Online registration: parent/guardian checks consent box
  • Drop-in/walk-up:
    • Parent/guardian comes and gives consent in-person
    • Parent/guardian gives consent on phone or video
    • Youth brings in paper form signed by parent/guardian. To download the Alameda County consent form, click for: English, Spanish.

Vaccine phone lines:

If you need help with transportation or are home-bound:

  • Go to MyTurn.ca.gov, scroll down to “request transportation” and follow instructions.
  • East Bay Paratransit is offering transportation to and from vaccination sites and a briefer, streamlined eligibility process to apply for services. Click here or call 510-287-5000 for more information.  
  • Home-bound people in Alameda County: to sign up for in-home vaccination, please complete the vaccine registration form on this webpage. If you are not able to use the internet form, please call 510-208-4829.
  • Home-bound people in Contra Costa County: request a home vaccination from the mobile team.

Community Health Centers:


Vaccines through county vaccination sites:

Need proof of vaccination?

  • Visit the CA Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record site to request your digital vaccination card. You’ll need the phone number or email address that you used to get your vaccine.
  • Download the Alameda County Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
  • If you were vaccinated at an Alameda County supported site, you can visit any currently open location for assistance.
  • If you were vaccinated elsewhere, contact that provider for a replacement.

Do you need to verify digital vaccine records at your workplace or venue? Download the SMART Health Care Verifier app to your Android phone or iPhone to scan the secure QR codes used in digital vaccine cards in California and across the globe.

What vaccines are currently available?

We have four authorized vaccines available: the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, the Novavax spike protein vaccine, and the Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) vaccine (most remaining J&J doses expire in May 2023). The mRNA vaccines are recommended because they remain highly protective against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

  • See how the authorized vaccines work: download PDF infographics from the CDC –

People living with HIV and COVID-19 vaccines

All people living with HIV (PLWH) are at higher risk for severe illness and long COVID from COVID-19 infection and are highly recommended to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and are all recommended to get updated bivalent boosters. The authorized vaccines are safe for people living with HIV regardless of CD4 count.

People with HIV who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may get additional bivalent booster doses at least 2 months after the previous one. This includes people with advanced or untreated HIV infection: CD4 cell counts <200/mm3, history of an AIDS-defining illness without immune reconstitution, or clinical manifestations of symptomatic HIV.

Studies on PLWH and COVID infection and vaccination outcomes

Research data has found that PLWH are more likely to get post-vaccine infections, even at higher CD4 counts and undetectable viral loads, so consider third doses, boosters and mRNA vaccines for all PLWH.

Long-COVID studies in New York and San Francisco (UCSF LIINC-HIV group) found that PLWH were about 2-4x as likely to have long COVID compared to people who were HIV-negative. The study from the UCSF LIINC-HIV group followed 39 PLWH and 43 well-matched people without HIV after their initial COVID infection found that PLWH were 4x as likely to have WHO-defined long COVID. PLWH had lower SARS-CoV-2 specific CD8+ and higher CD4+ T cell responses, which may have implications for immunity after infection. (Peluso)

A WHO study of over 15,000 global cases of COVID-19 in people living with HIV (PLWH) presented at IAS in July 2021 found that unvaccinated PLWH were 13% more likely to be hospitalized and 30% more likely to die after being hospitalized, independent of age, gender, comorbidities. Among PLWH, having diabetes, high blood pressure, being male or over 75 years old was each associated with an increased risk of death. CD4, viral load and ART status was not available in this cohort. Most people in this cohort were from the African region, and of those, most were from South Africa.

A US study of 8,270 PLWH with COVID-19 found that unvaccinated PLWH in the US who went to the ED with COVID symptoms had an increased risk of hospitalization requiring ventilation by 43% and increased risk of death by 20%, independent of sociodemographic factors and comorbidities. Outcomes were 4-7x worse for people with CD4 <350 and with higher viral loads. Another study (under review) of the ~13,000 PLWH in the CNICs cohort showed that COVID-19 severity was worse with CD4 <350 and history of CD4 <200.

Earlier data also showed that people living with HIV and CD4 counts less than 200 have greater risk for hospitalizations and death from COVID-19.

UK data shows that getting 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective for people with health conditions, including HIV. Protection after one dose in a 2-dose regimen was not as protective compared to people without health conditions.  The July 2021 outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts included 30 PLWH who were fully vaccinated, all virally suppressed, none were hospitalized. Two small lab-based studies showed that antibody, T- and B-cell responses were similar between PLWH and people without HIV, but most study participants had CD4>500 and suppressed viral loads.

These studies underscore the importance of prioritizing PLWH for outreach and to complete all vaccination doses.

Should we check for immunity after vaccination? The FDA does not currently recommend checking for SARS-Cov2 antibodies after COVID-19 vaccination since current antibody tests have not been evaluated to assess level of protection from vaccination. If antibodies are checked anyway, be sure the proper type is ordered:

Resources for PLWH and COVID-19 vaccines: UNAIDS infosheet on COVID-19 vaccines and HIV, Clinical FAQs with Dr. Paul Sax at Harvard and The New England Journal of Medicine, Clinical FAQs for people living with HIV from HIVMA (PDF), Guidance for talking with patients and FAQs for PLWH from Alameda Health Systems (PDF).

COVID risk reduction

Our updated infographics below are based on the updated Bay Area guidance, California guidance and CDC guidance.

Here’s a quick guide for safer gatherings when cases are high:

  • Check that guests are vaccinated and boosted if eligible.
  • Ask guests to do a rapid COVID test right before you gather (ideally 15-30 minutes before) and make sure they are negative.
  • Maximize ventilation by being outdoors and if indoors, keeping windows/doors open and running HEPA air filters.
  • Wear high quality masks: N95 (best), KN95, KF94 (very good), double-masking with a surgical mask under a tight-fitting cloth mask (good) or at least a surgical mask with gaps tucked in (decent).
  • Keep it small, such as 3 households or fewer.

Travel guidance:

When to get tested for COVID-19:

  • When experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • When you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

What do to if you are exposed or have COVID-19:

  • Stay home (“isolate”) and wear a mask to protect people around you, including at home, following the guidance in the graphic below.
  • Let your medical provider know ASAP because antiviral treatment may be available, especially if you are immunocompromised or have other risks for severe illness. Treatments are available for people at risk and are more effective taken as soon as possible after the start of symptoms. 
  • Click here for more details and treatment options.

Click for more from the CDC: general guidance, travel guidance and the scientific brief. Click here for our harm reduction guidance and graphics

Vaccine Resources

Help educate our community and combat vaccine misinformation! There are three safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccines widely available and authorized for use in the US: the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Resources for recipients and caregivers in multiple languages:

Resources for health care providers and organizations:

County public health department vaccine updates:

COVID-19 vaccine data trackers:

Vaccine questions and feedback:

Community spotlights

Students at Oakland Unified high schools share their reasons for getting vaccinated:

Vincent Williams, Oakland LGBTQ Center, says: “The idea of getting a vaccination was very scary for me. Being a person of color. But seeing that I could take potential steps in protecting myself out-weighed my skepticism.  I had some side effects from the first shot. But the second was a breeze. I am proud, and glad to say, ‘I got vaccinated!'”

Moisés Cruz Jáuregui, EBGTZ, dice: “Una vacuna significa tener la posibilidad de prevenir una enfermedad. El COVID-19 ha lastimado mucho nuestra comunidad y a la vez nos ha en señado lo fuertes que podemos ser juntos. Tuve la oportunidad de recibir la vacuna y me siento muy agradecido y afortunado por mi mismo y por la comunidad con la trabajo. Cuando tengan la oportunidad, aprovechenla y opten por protegerse y proteger a los que aman!”

Terri Lynn Haggins, Community member & WORLD volunteer says, “I took my second vaccine today. It’s important to think first about your health! NO to HIV…NO to cancer and NO to COVID-19!”

Dr. Xaviera Ortiz of LifeLong Medical Care and Alameda Health System is happy to share that she received the COVID-19 vaccine while she was pregnant, and both she and her healthy newborn now have antibodies that protect against getting COVID-19.

Imran Merchant at UCSF and Trikone says, “Working as a front line healthcare worker, receiving the vaccine meant I was protecting myself and helping those around me. Yes, I felt the symptoms of chills and body aches but that is nothing compared to the pain of having had COVID and being hospitalized and it is nothing compared to the millions of lives lost due to COVID. Help protect yourself and your community, get vaccinated.”

Christian Aguirre (He/Him), HIV Prevention Manager at Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County, says “I felt very fortunate to have the chance to receive the vaccine and help protect the LGBTQI+ community members that are served through Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa. Many of us struggle when it comes to receiving health services because of privilege, cost, insurance, and immigration status. The advice I had to give to myself was: If you are available to get the vaccine, do it ASAP!”

Jesse Brooks, Community Advocate and EBGTZ Advisory Board Chair, says: “Being vaccinated was important to me, I can’t wait to get back to some resemblance of normalcy. I miss my family, and especially my 86-year-old mother.  The worst for me have been all the deaths, bringing up PTSD from the early years of HIV. It’s been challenging living in daily fear of contracting COVID-19 or worse, passing it on to loved ones. As a community leader I felt the demonstration to the community and my family was important, knowing the mistrust that exists and knowing that it’s a challenge to put those fears to rest. I also felt I was at increased risk because of my age and comorbidities of diabetes.”

Shirley Mychelle Gainey, Case Manager at CAL-PEP, says:

“The reason I got vaccinated is that I miss hugging my baby boy. I haven’t hugged him tight since Mother’s day. When it comes to HIV or STI’s, he is well informed and asks questions. (Thank you CAL-PEP and APEB.) I want him to be just as informed about COVID-19. My landlord is 83 years old. I don’t want to place him in harm’s way. I miss going to campus. I am so over virtual everything! I understand that the masks will be with us through the next 100 days. At Least. If you and I and 100 people we know also get the vaccine, maybe the 100 days will seem more like 80.”

Amber Taylor, Case Manager at WORLD, says: “I got the vaccine due to working in the public, with a large number of people who are susceptible to catching the virus. Myself having asthma I am at a greater risk of catching COVID, so getting the vaccine I am protecting myself and the ones I love. I am always around my child, my father who is 65, my grandmother who is 70+, they are all at a greater risk of not recovering fully from this virus, so being around them I need to make sure they are protected at all times.”

Dr. Sami Lubega of EBGTZ got the vaccine from Dr. Maggie Edmonds, Deputy CMO at LifeLong and says, “I got the vaccine because I trust it to help me protect my patients, family, and community. For me, getting the vaccine is an important step in the movement to fight COVID-19 and to bring healing and togetherness into our lives again!”

Dr. Sophy Wong of EBGTZ got the vaccine from DL Poole, PA and COO at LifeLong and says, “Getting the vaccine is a pivotal moment in the pandemic for me. It feels like we’re finally starting to dig our way out of this crisis. I’m grateful to get such a highly effective vaccine to protect not only my own health but the health of loved ones and our communities. I look forward to working with everyone to get more vaccines out to more people more quickly!”

2-month post-vaccine update: “I tend to get lots of side effects from medications and vaccines. Thankfully I was able to take the day off work after each dose. I got injection site pain and fatigue with the first dose that lasted a few days. After the second dose, I got fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches and a headache. It made me feel better to know that the side effects are from my body’s immune system training hard (real hard!) to fight off the virus and was helping me protect myself, my family and my community get safer. I could feel my body churning out loads of antibodies!

The longest side effect I’ve had is a feeling of liberation knowing that I am safely visiting my vaccinated mother and spending more time with loved ones. After this long and stressful pandemic year, it’s an amazing feeling to know that I was able to get vaccinated to keep my community safer and healthier.”