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Indy Q+A: Where can I go to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Nevada? Is it safe? Can I choose which vaccine I get?

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka

The COVID-19 vaccine is here in Nevada, and it's now available to everyone aged 5 or older.

Below, we answer as many of your questions as possible about the vaccine, from “Where can I go to get the vaccine” to “Can I choose which vaccine I get?”

All answers below are based on interviews with state and local immunization officials and health care workers, and publicly available resources from the state of Nevada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This article will be updated as more information on the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. It was last updated on: Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

For more on how many doses of the vaccine Nevada has administered, please visit our COVID-19 data page.

Who is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Nevada?

All Nevadans 5 or older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in the Silver State as of Nov. 2. The authorization for younger age groups came months after it did for adults, following large-scale clinical trials that found the vaccine safe for children.

Previously, vaccines were eligible to all individuals 12 or older. However, eligibility varies depending on the vaccine.

Which vaccine am I eligible to receive?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for anyone 5 and up, and 5- to 11-year-olds are provided a smaller dose, one-third the size of the dose given to older individuals. 

The Pfizer vaccine has been fully approved for use by the FDA for individuals 16 or older and is commercially branded as COMIRNATY. Other vaccines have been authorized for emergency use rather than fully approved. Moderna is seeking full approval for its vaccine, while Johnson and Johnson has said the company expects to apply for full approval later this year.

The Moderna and Johnson and Johnson (also known as Janssen) vaccines are only authorized for use in adults 18 and up. Those who are 5 to 17 years old or making an appointment for someone in that age group, should ensure they are scheduling an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine or they will be turned away.

Are children under the age of 5 eligible for the vaccine?

No, there is currently no approved vaccine for those under the age of 5. Vaccines for children under 5 are expected to be available in 2022.

Who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose?

If you received your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, you are eligible for a booster shot if you are 65 or older or if you are 18 or older and live in a long-term care setting, have underlying medical conditions or work or live in a high-risk environment.

Anyone who received the Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) vaccine at least two months ago is eligible for a booster dose.

Individuals eligible for a booster are allowed to receive a booster dose of the same vaccine type or a vaccine different from the one they originally received.

How can I get vaccinated?

Statewide: Retail pharmacies are offering the vaccine across the state, with many pharmacies offering vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds, including Albertsons, CVS and Walgreens. Parents may also be able to find a vaccine for their child through their local pediatrician. Appointments for the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11 are generally available beginning on Saturday, Nov. 6.

  • Smith's: Sign up here.
  • Albertsons, Vons and Safeway: Sign up here.
  • Walgreens: Sign up here.
  • CVS: Sign up here.
  • Walmart and Sam's Club: Sign up here.
  • Save Mart: Sign up here.
  • Raley's (Tonopah location only): For Nye and Esmeralda counties, the Tonopah Raley's at 1201 Main Street is taking appointments for those 65 and older. Call (775) 482-6711 to schedule your appointment.
  • Ridley’s Market & Pharmacy (Winnemucca and Ely only): Call (775) 263-2548 to make an appointment at the Winnemucca Ridley’s. Call (775) 289-2671 to make an appointment at the Ely Ridley’s.

Immunize Nevada, a nonprofit organization that is working with the state on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, also has a county-specific COVID-19 page (available here) with the latest information on which groups are being vaccinated in each county. This page may be more up-to-date than this vaccine Q+A, so also check there for the latest information.

The state has an online appointment scheduler and a COVID-19 vaccine locator that shows vaccination locations across Nevada. 

State health officials also have a phone line to answer vaccine-related questions. For more information, call 1-800-401-0946 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Nevada Health Centers is offering COVID-19 vaccines at its locations in Carson City, Las Vegas and Elko. More information here.

In Clark County:

  • Southern Nevada Health District is scheduling appointments for its clinics and other community clinics here.
  • UMC is scheduling appointments here.
  • UNLV is scheduling appointments here.
  • The city of Henderson is scheduling appointments here.
  • Boulder City Fire and Boulder City Hospital are offering the vaccine. Residents should call Boulder City Parks and Recreation at (702) 293-9256 Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to make an appointment.
  • Laughlin residents can call the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce at (702) 298-2214 to be added to a vaccine waiting list.
  • The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries. More info here or call 702-791-9185.

In Washoe County:

  • The Washoe County Health District is scheduling appointments through the state’s appointment scheduler here.
  • The Sparks Fire Department is scheduling appointments. Check the vaccine locator here for availability.
  • UNR faculty, staff and student employees can get vaccinated here.
  • The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries. More info here.

In the Quad Counties, which includes Carson City and Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties:

  • The Carson City Health and Human Services is scheduling appointments here or call (775) 434-1988 for assistance.
  • In Storey County, vaccinations are being administered through local pharmacies. Click here for more info.
  • The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in the Quad Counties. More info here.

In Churchill County:

  • Vaccines are being administered at the county fairgrounds. More information here.
  • The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Churchill County. More info here.

In Elko County:

  • Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital is vaccinating all eligible individuals in the county. Information here or call (775) 748-2243.

In Eureka County:

  • Visit the county website for more information or contact public works at (775) 237-5372.
  • The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Eureka County. More info here.

In Humboldt County:

  • Individuals can contact the community health office at (775) 623-6575 for more information, or visit Humboldt General Hospital’s website for more information. 
  • The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Humboldt County. More info here.

In Lander County:

  • Contact the county's hotline at (775) 539-9136 for questions on who is currently being vaccinated and when vaccination clinics will occur. 
  • The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Lander County. More info here.

In Lincoln County:

  • Contact the community health nurse, Nicole Rowe, to schedule appointments at (775) 962-8086 or Caliente Clinic at (775) 726-3121. 
  • The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Lincoln County. More info here or call 702-791-9185.

In Mineral County:

  • The Mineral County community health nurse is vaccinating by appointment only at 331 1st Street in Hawthorne. Call (775) 945-3657 for more information.
  • Vaccinations are being administered at the Mt. Grant Medical Building, but you must contact your primary care provider to set up an appointment. For more information, call (775) 945-3668.
  •  The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Mineral County. More info here.

In Nye County:

  • Nye County is offering appointments at its county health offices. Call (775) 482-6659 for appointments in Tonopah and (775) 751-7070 for appointments in Pahrump.
  • The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Nye County. More info here or call 702-791-9185.

In Pershing County:

  • Residents can contact the Pershing Physicians Clinic to schedule appointments at (775) 273-2621. They can also contact the community health nurse's office at (775) 273-2041 to schedule COVID vaccinations.
  •  The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is providing COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, their spouses, eligible caregivers and CHAMPVA beneficiaries in Pershing County. More info here.

In White Pine County:

  • Call the county’s live health care hotline (775) 777-2507 for more information about COVID-19 resources in White Pine.
  • Economy Drug in Ely is offering first doses. Call (775) 289-4929 to make an appointment.

Will I have to pay out-of-pocket for the COVID vaccine?

No, the federal government has already paid for the COVID-19 vaccine, so the vaccine itself is provided free of charge. You may be asked for an insurance card, however, so that the provider vaccinating you can bill your insurance company for the cost of providing the vaccination. 

Uninsured patients will still be provided the vaccination at no cost, and the provider can enroll in a program through the federal government to recoup some of the administrative costs of providing the vaccination.

Can I get the vaccine, regardless of my immigration status?

Yes. As far as privacy concerns, the state only reports aggregate vaccination numbers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which means the federal government will not receive any information about who, specifically, in Nevada has gotten vaccinated.

Additionally, state regulations protect information in the state’s immunization information system as confidential. Access is restricted to health care providers, child care facilities, public schools, systems of higher education, the Department of Health and Human Services, insurance companies, child welfare agencies and the Department of Corrections.

Do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve had COVID-19?

People who have recovered from COVID-19 are being asked to get vaccinated because of uncertainty about how long natural immunity acquired after contracting the virus lasts. 

The state is currently recommending that anyone who is 90 days past the resolution of their infection to get vaccinated but are urging people to talk with their health care providers for more information about their individual situation.

What can I expect from the vaccination process?

At some sites, you may experience a wait before you can receive the vaccine. At others, you may be able to show up and get vaccinated immediately. 

Vaccination sites enforce social distancing and mask wearing. When it’s your turn, you’ll be asked some brief questions and to confirm that you are who you say you are. The vaccination itself will be quick like the flu shot — just a shot in the arm — but then you’ll be directed to a waiting area where you’ll be asked to wait at least 15 minutes to monitor for any immediate side effects, or 30 minutes if you have a history of anaphylaxis.

At the end of the vaccination process, you’ll receive a physical vaccine card with a record of your first vaccination, which you will need to bring when you return for your second dose, if you are vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna. If you are vaccinated with Johnson and Johnson, a one-shot vaccine, you will not need to return, unless you choose to receive a booster.

Make sure to keep your vaccination card in a safe place and either make a photocopy of it or take a picture of it with your phone as a backup.

Can I choose which vaccine I get?

Your vaccine registration portal may tell you which product is being offered, so be sure to check when signing up for the vaccine. Public health professionals and doctors have said that people should take whichever vaccine is offered first to them. 

If you are 5 to 17, however, you must receive the Pfizer vaccine, because it is the only product authorized for use in that age group.

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

According to Johns Hopkins University, none of the vaccine trials have reported any serious safety concerns.

Dr. Andy Pasternak, a family medicine doctor in Reno, said it’s okay to be nervous about the vaccine and urged anyone with any questions to talk to their primary care doctor or other local doctors they know and trust. He also recommended that interested individuals who have a group they’d like to educate about the vaccine — such as a workplace or a church — reach out to local doctors to see if they’d be willing to participate in a Zoom vaccination education session.

“We’re here to help you. We’re part of your community. We’re getting the vaccine. We don’t want to tell people you have to get this, we want people to ask questions and feel comfortable with it,” Pasternak said.

What are the side effects of the COVID vaccine?

Common side effects include sore arm, fever, muscle pain and fatigue that resolve within 24 hours after receiving the vaccine. For most people the side effects will be a little bit more than a flu shot, though it varies, Pasternak said. In general, the second shot has tended to hit people harder, in terms of side effects, than the first.

Should I be worried about taking the vaccine if I suffer from severe allergies?

Some people who have taken the vaccine have experienced severe allergic reactions, though those reactions were successfully treated and those individuals recovered. 

“For someone who does have severe allergies, I’m telling them to talk to their physicians and go over things,” Pasternak said. “Ultimately, we’ll have more data coming out in the next couple of weeks.”

In general, you can expect to have to wait 15-30 minutes after getting the vaccine at the location where you received it to make sure that you do not experience any allergic reactions. 

Read the CDC’s full recommendations on allergic reactions and the COVID-19 vaccine here.

Am I protected from COVID-19 after my first shot?

While studies show that the first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offers some protection, you are not considered fully protected until two weeks after you get your second shot. That’s why you should return for your second dose unless a vaccination provider or doctor tells you not to. The second dose is typically administered 21 to 28 days after the first shot, depending on which vaccine you received. (Pfizer’s second dose is given in three weeks; Moderna’s is four.)

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.

Generally, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot of Pfizer or Moderna or your first shot of Johnson and Johnson.

Can I stop wearing a mask once I get the vaccine?

The latest guidance from the CDC requires everyone to wear a mask in public, indoor settings in counties with substantial or high levels of community COVID-19 transmission. For more information about transmission and whether the mask mandate is in place in your county, click here to use the CDC’s COVID-19 county check tool.

Nevada Health Response also has more information about mask requirements in each county here.

Will the vaccine give me COVID?

No, you can’t get COVID-19 by taking the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“There’s no way you can get COVID from this,” Pasternak said.

None of the COVID-19 vaccines in development in the United States use a live or inactivated COVID-19 virus, though those types of vaccines are commonly used to protect against other viruses.

Live vaccines are used to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, smallpox and chickenpox. Inactivated vaccines are used to protect against Hepatitis A, the flu, polio and rabies.

However, it’s important to note that it will take some time for your body to build up immunity against COVID-19 after you receive the vaccine, so you could still fall ill with the virus if you are infected before or just after vaccination. That’s why it’s important that you continue to wear a mask and social distance.

What is an mRNA vaccine?

Unlike other vaccines that put a live or inactivated virus into our bodies to trigger an immune response, mRNA vaccines give our body a tiny piece of genetic material known as messenger RNA. 

That mRNA contains instructions for how to build a harmless portion of a viral protein to teach our bodies how to fight the virus. When our cells encounter the mRNA, they manufacture that harmless protein. When the cell displays that protein on its surface, the body triggers an immune response, producing antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off the protein. That means that when our body encounters the real viral protein, it recognizes it and already knows how to defeat the virus.

The mRNA, however, does not alter or modify your DNA in any way. Once your body makes the harmless protein, the cell breaks down the mRNA and disposes of it within the cell. The mRNA never enters the cell’s nucleus, where DNA is stored.

Pasternak compared it to a castle within a village surrounded by a moat. The mRNA gets into the village but it never crosses the moat into the castle, where the DNA lives.

While mRNA vaccines are a new technology, early stage clinical trials using mRNA vaccines have been carried out for other viruses, including the flu, Zika, rabies and cytomegalovirus.

Does the vaccine work on new strains of COVID?

The research on this is constantly evolving. Early data shows Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appears to be effective against the widespread delta variant of COVID-19.

The early research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are slightly less effective against the variants, but COVID-19 vaccines still appear to provide protection against severe cases and are considered the best way to mitigate the effects of the virus.

For the latest on how effective the vaccines are against variants, click here.

How many COVID vaccines are available right now?

Right now, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson (also known as Janssen) vaccines are approved for distribution in the U.S., though there are dozens of others in the works.

Because it is a different kind of vaccine, known as an adenovirus-based vaccine, the Janssen vaccine is more stable than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — meaning it can be stored in regular refrigerators for months. It also only requires one dose, not two.

It is unclear when two other vaccines — developed by AstraZeneca and Novovax — will be available in the U.S., though AstraZeneca is seeking approval from the FDA for its antibody treatment. Regulators in the United Kingdom have approved an antiviral pill found to be effective at treating COVID-19, created by Merck.

Who developed the vaccine plan in Nevada and nationally?

Nationally, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has been putting forward recommendations on the COVID-19 vaccine. The state’s vaccination playbook is largely built on that guidance, with input from clinical and public health staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, the governor’s office, disability advocacy groups and others.

If, after reading this article and visiting the links for additional information referenced in it, you cannot find the answer to your COVID-19 vaccination question, please email [email protected]. We will either attempt to answer your question over email or save it for a future update to this story.


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