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Questions about COVID-19 vaccines? UCPCC can help

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

It’s a question UCPCC staff members field on a regular basis from students, families and caregivers. And we understand. We want things to get back to normal – or at least “the new normal.”

The situation is always changing. We know this can be frustrating and confusing.

To help out with information on vaccines, UCPCC will be hosting a Facebook Live event at 6 p.m. Monday, March 22, where we will be available to answer questions about the vaccines and the process of getting vaccinated. We hope you will join us for a lively discussion by liking our Facebook page and following along with your questions.

On Feb. 12, the California Department of Health offered the following guidance (with updates on March 11):

Beginning March 15, healthcare providers may use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals age 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of one or more of the following severe health conditions:

  • Cancer, current with debilitated or immunocompromised state

  • Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above

  • Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent

  • Down syndrome

  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant

  • Pregnancy

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (excludes hypertension)

  • Severe obesity (Body Mass Index ≥ 40 kg/m2)

  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5% OR

If as a result of a developmental or other severe high-risk disability one or more of the following applies:

  • The individual is likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection

  • Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual's ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival

  • Providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual's disability

  • Individuals who reside or work in a high risk congregate residential setting, such as an incarceration/detention facility, homeless shelter, or behavioral health facility, as these settings are high risk for outbreaks and have a concentration of individuals with high risk chronic health conditions. This includes all people experiencing homelessness, who are at risk of transitioning into congregate settings at short notice.

  • Public transit/airport and commercial airlines. Public transit workers, including airport and commercial airline workers (but not private airplanes) will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. They are at high risk for occupational exposure and maintaining continuity of transportation operations is critical.

Individuals with disabilities who are unable to visit a medical provider may complete a high-risk medical condition self-attestation form. An English version can be found here. A version of the form in Spanish can be found here.

Facts about the COVID-19 vaccines

The first thing to know about the COVID-19 vaccines is …. there are lots of misconceptions.

“One of the most common misconceptions is that the vaccines can give you COVID,” says Dr. Shea Osburn, assistant medical director for pediatric hospital medicine at Valley Children’s Hospital. “We know it can’t. It’s not a live vaccine like the chicken pox vaccine.”

Osburn, who will be joining us for our Facebook Live event, says she’s even heard people link the vaccines to government conspiracies involving “nano robots” and 5G cellular communications. None of these rumors are true.

In regards to people with disabilities, Osburn says the vaccines are safe.

“All vaccines have potential for mild side effects. The most common with these vaccines are sore arm, muscle aches, tiredness and fever.” Osburn says. “There is nothing about these MRNA vaccines that should specifically make someone with a disability concerned.”

Osburn added that for adults with disabilities, getting the vaccine is “substantially safer than getting COVID-19. And the side effects are pretty minimal.”

“Experts advise if you are high risk for COVID, you should get the vaccine,” Osburn says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caution that people who receive the vaccine may experience pain and swelling at the injection site, and side effects may include fever, chills, tiredness and headache.

Osburn says people usually want to know how often they will need the vaccine.

“We don’t know the answer to that yet,” she says, adding it looks like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide at least 9 months of immunity.

“So, it may be annually [that COVID-19 vaccines will be given] like flu shots. But we don’t know for sure,” Osburn added.

If you’ve already had COVID-19, Osburn advises that you should still get vaccinated.

“You just need to make sure you’re out of your isolation period (which is ten days from your first symptom or positive test if asymptomatic, or twenty days if you are immunocompromised or required ICU admission) and you no longer have a fever,” she says. “The immunity from the vaccine is actually better than the immunity from having the virus.”

And you don’t need to be retested to receive the vaccine, Osburn says.

Once you’ve had your first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, you’ll wait a few weeks until your second dose, typically between 21 and 28 days. The newly-released Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a “one-and-done” shot – there’s no need to return for a second dose.

Where can I get vaccinated?

In Fresno County, your first step should be to register at the state’s platform, MyTurn. The platform notifies you when it’s your turn to get vaccinated and can register you for vaccinations in Fresno County. If you do not have internet access, you can call 1-833-422-4255.

The county also has a list of providers who are offering vaccinations, including United Health Centers, Kaiser Permanente and Clinica Sierra Vista.

Pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid also are offering appointments to get vaccinated at some of their pharmacies.

For the latest on any COVID-19 vaccine information, visit the Fresno County Department of Health’s website.

And if you are interested in learning more about the vaccines, or if you, your family member or your caregiver has been impacted financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Disability Equity Project’s website at, call us at (559) 348-5421 or email

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