COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are working to administer the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters to employees and incarcerated individuals in alignment with California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines. COVID-19 vaccinations are available at no cost to all CDCR and CCHCS employees and incarcerated individuals.

To view statewide numbers, view the CDCR/CCHCS COVID-19 Tracking page for incarcerated individuals, and the CDCR/CCHCS Employee Status page.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been carefully evaluated in clinical trials for their ability to protect us from COVID-19.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized by the FDA and have been carefully evaluated in several rounds of clinical trials. The research is clear: COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. Vaccinated persons who do become infected with the virus that cause COVID-19 are much less likely to become seriously ill, to be hospitalized, or to die from the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) track any adverse reactions patients may have. While very few patients have had an allergic reaction to any of the vaccines, vaccine providers monitor patients for at least 15 minutes following their immunization to quickly respond in the rare event of an adverse reaction.

How is COVID-19 vaccine distribution determined?

CCHCS is administering vaccines following state and federal guidelines. Vaccine distribution is available for all incarcerated persons and staff who request it.

How many doses of the vaccine do I need?

The initial series for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines requires two doses. . It is important to come back and receive the second dose for the vaccine to be effective. Over time, the protective effect of the vaccine can wane. Therefore, a booster dose is recommended six months after completing the initial series. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose. A booster shot is recommended two months after the initial vaccination. CDC’s recommendations allow for mixing and matching COVID-19 products for booster shots.

Are boosters being administered?

Booster shots are available for any incarcerated person or staff member who meets the criteria for obtaining a booster

  • At least six months since their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccination, or
  • At least two months since their initial Johnson & Johnson vaccination

Workers may obtain no-cost COVID-19 vaccination and booster from CDCR/CCHCS vaccine clinics. Alternatively, workers may obtain no-cost vaccination/booster outside CDCR/CCHCS from any clinic listed on the website, or from their personal health care provider.

What about the Omicron variant?

A new variant of COVID was first identified in November 2021. This variant is at least three times more contagious than the Delta variant. Omicron is rapidly spreading around the world. This variant is now the most common COVID variant in California.

The new Omicron variant has over 50 mutations. The two-dose vaccine series does not protect as well against infection from Omicron. Fortunately, a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine can boost the immune system and is very effective against infection.”

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

On August 19, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an order for paid and unpaid individuals who are regularly assigned to provide health care or health care services to incarcerated people to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they qualify for an accommodation based upon sincerely held religious beliefs or due to qualifying medical reason(s). On December 22, 2021, CDPH updated that order and now requires booster-eligible workers to receive their booster dose by no later than February 1, 2022, or to undergo twice-weekly COVID-19 testing with at least 72 hours between each test, until boosted.

Both orders for full vaccination and boosters apply to all staff at California Health Care Facility (CHCF), California Medical Facility (CMF), and the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). In addition, it applies to those workers regularly assigned to work in the following health care areas or posts within institutions system-wide.

  • All Correctional Treatment Centers (CTC) and similar locations, including medical CTC beds, licensed and unlicensed Psychiatric In-Patient Program (PIP) housing, and licensed and unlicensed Mental Health Crisis housing
  • All Out-Patient Housing Units (OHUs)
  • Medical, Specialty, Mental Health, and Dental clinic treatment areas
  • Hospice beds
  • Dialysis units
  • Triage and Treatment Areas (TTAs)
  • Staff identified on the Master Assignment Roster as assigned to transportation or medical guarding in the community
  • All Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) staff assigned to Mental Health Residential Units, Intensive Behavioral Treatment Program Units, and Sexual Behavior Treatment Program Units
  • All staff assigned to the Medical Wings within DJJ facilities
  • All staff assigned to the Program Center at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility

While the vaccine is not required for all CDCR and CCHCS staff at this time, it is strongly encouraged to protect yourself and everyone around you.

What is the deadline for receiving a booster?

All workers required to be fully vaccinated must receive their booster dose by no later than February 1, 2022, unless they are not past the recommended timeframe for receiving the booster (six months after second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). Workers not yet eligible for boosters must be in compliance no later than 15 days after meeting the recommended booster timeframe.

What if I have a religious or medical exemption?

CDCR/CCHCS/CALPIA staff, contractors, registry providers and volunteers with a sincerely held religious belief should work with their supervisor and local Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) coordinator. Religious accommodation requests require a written statement, via the CDCR Form 2273, Request for Religious Accommodation, indicating the individual’s sincerely held religious belief that precludes them from receiving any COVID-19 vaccine.

With the exception of health care registry and contract workers, CDCR/CCHCS/CALPIA workers with a qualifying medical, mental health, or developmental condition shall immediately contact their supervisor and local Return-to-Work Coordinator (RTWC). Reasonable medical accommodation requests are submitted with a CDCR 855, Request for Reasonable Accommodation, and a written statement signed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician stating that the individual qualifies for the accommodation (but without describing the underlying health condition or disability) and the probable duration of the person’s inability to receive any COVID-19 vaccine (or indicating the duration is unknown or permanent). Requests for reasonable medical accommodation from health care registry contract workers shall be submitted to their vendor/contractor/network contractor, along with a signed written medical statement. If the accommodation is denied, the worker has 14 calendar days to initiate a vaccination.

Can I be disciplined for not being fully vaccinated and boosted?

Staff subject to the CDPH order who do not comply with requirements for vaccination, booster, testing, and masking mandates may be subject to corrective or disciplinary action. For registry providers or contract workers, and applicable retired annuitants, Hiring Authorities will report non-compliance to the vendor/contractor. Beginning February 2, 2022, assignments for those not in compliance who have not received or requested an accommodation will end.

I already had COVID-19. Do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. People are advised to get the vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. Re-infection is possible, as are severe health risks associated with COVID-19.

Will everyone still be required to practice COVID-19 protocols after being vaccinated?

Yes. Getting vaccinated is just one of many steps we can take to protect against COVID-19. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like cleaning your hands often with soap or hand sanitizer, wearing face masks, getting tested regularly and practicing physical distancing, help reduce the chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.

Fully vaccinated and booster-eligible workers, regardless of booster status, must wear a procedure mask while on CDCR institution grounds, unless an N95 mask is required. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated workers, including those with a pending accommodation request or disciplinary action, must wear an N95 mask while on institution grounds.

Can my family member get vaccinated at my workplace?

No. Vaccine clinics held at institutions and CDCR/CCHCS locations are for current staff only. The COVID-19 vaccine is free at health clinics and pharmacies in the community, or through an individual’s personal health care provider. Visit for details.