How We're Addressing COVID-19
The CalPERS team recognizes that the global pandemic resulting from the coronavirus is creating uncertainty and concern among our members. We want to reassure you that your benefits are safe, and we are fully operational. Despite the circumstances, CalPERS is here for you.
Although our Sacramento headquarters and regional offices are closed to protect the public and our team members, there are many ways that you can still reach us:
- We know you may have questions about your retirement and health benefits. To get you timely answers and avoid having to wait on the phone, we've compiled answers to frequently asked questions we're getting from our active and retired members.
- The CalPERS Contact Center is open and our benefit team members are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. by calling 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377).
- You can also use your myCalPERS account to make important updates online like making changes to tax withholdings or direct deposit, or you can submit secure member inquiries.
- Our website also includes resources and publications to help answer any of your questions.
CalPERS support teams will continue to process documents sent by U.S. Mail and route them to team members to process and respond.
We know this is a difficult time for you and your families, so please be safe and know that you can count on CalPERS to be there when you need us.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
COVID-19 vaccines are an important step in slowing the spread of the disease. The CDC recommends that all individuals ages 5 and older receive a COVID-19 vaccination. We're committed to helping you stay informed about COVID-19 vaccines and how to get the COVID-19 vaccine easily and conveniently. Your health care provider and your health plan can help you understand more about the vaccines and your health.
Vaccine Information: Currently, three vaccines are available in the United States. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has full FDA approval for individuals 16 and older, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been authorized for emergency use for people 18 and older. In October, Pfizer-BioNTech received FDA emergency use authorization for people ages 5 and older.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna require two doses three and four weeks apart, respectively. It’s very important for full vaccination to receive both doses.
Pfizer and Moderna are messenger RNA vaccines — also called mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body's natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection.
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a single dose viral vector vaccine. A viral vector vaccine contains a modified version of a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19. Inside the shell of the modified virus, there’s material from the virus that causes COVID-19. This is called a “viral vector.” Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build special cells that’ll remember how to fight that virus if we’re infected in the future.
The FDA approved and authorized vaccines have undergone rigorous clinical trials and have all been found to be highly effective and safe to use — including those with chronic health problems or who are immunocompromised.
For the latest information on COVID vaccines, visit the FDA website.
If you have any questions about getting the vaccine, talk to your health care provider. They can help answer specific questions about the vaccine and your health.
Boosters: A booster dose of vaccine is needed when a person's level of immunity has decreased over time. Booster doses are very common and are a normal part of most vaccine series.
For Pfizer and Moderna vaccine recipients, booster doses should be administered at least six months after an individual has completed their initial vaccine series. For Johnson & Johnson recipients, booster doses should be administered at least two months after an individual has received their initial vaccine.
The California Department of Public Health is recommending that all eligible individuals receive a booster as soon as they're eligible to maintain a strong immunity against COVID-19. You may receive the Booster dose of your choice, following completion of your primary vaccination series.
Eligibility and Availability: Vaccine supplies are available and every Californian 12 and older is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
My Turn is the online registration and notification system to let you know when you can get your vaccine in your county or to sign up for an appointment.
Cost: There is no cost to you. The vaccines and their administration are covered at $0 cost-share during the national public health emergency period, regardless of where you get the vaccine.
What to Expect: When you get your vaccine, you may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. Common side effects include fatigue, headache, muscle aches, soreness or other injection site reactions, and mild fever. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19). That means it's possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
For more information about what to expect after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, visit the CDC website or talk with your health care provider.
When you’ve been fully vaccinated: You’re considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose in a 2-dose series, such as Pfizer or Moderna, and two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
After you’re fully vaccinated, you can start doing many things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. When choosing safer activities, consider how COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the number of people participating in the activity, and the location of the activity. Outdoor visits and activities are safer than indoor activities.
CalPERS Offices & Classes Update
- We've closed the CalPERS Regional Offices to in-person appointments. This action will be in effect until further notice. We are implementing this step out of an abundance of caution to protect the health of our members and our Regional Office employees.
We will be contacting members who already have appointments scheduled to conduct them over the phone. We'll call you within 15 minutes of your scheduled time so that we can still answer your questions. If you want to schedule a telephone appointment in the future, call us during business hours at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377).
- Although our in-person instructor-led classes are on hold, CalPERS is offering instructor-led virtual classes where you can learn about your benefits and get questions answered. Please note that with these classes you're able to enroll with any Regional Office that has space available. Visit our Member Education page to view class descriptions, then log into your myCalPERS account to enroll.
- We've postponed our in-person CalPERS Benefits Education Events (CBEE). View the CBEE web page for information on our virtual offerings.
CalPERS Health Plans
- CalPERS has engaged our health plans to ensure members have access to the care they need during this time. We've had regular calls with our health plan leaders to ensure that our health plans are well prepared to provide excellent service to all of our members.
- We've asked our health plans to provide information regarding COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines on their websites. We encourage you to visit your plan's website for the latest information and protocols.
- Any member who needs a diagnostic test for COVID-19 will not have to pay anything out of pocket provided the test is FDA-approved or authorized to diagnose COVID-19 and ordered by a health care professional. This applies to members in both our Health Maintenance Organization and Preferred Provider Organization plans.
- We've been coordinating with our Pharmacy Benefit Manager, OptumRX, so members have access to medications they need. While we do not anticipate any interruptions to prescription medications, we're working closely with our pharmacy partners to ensure you receive your medications as soon as possible. It's a good idea to fill your prescriptions through your plan's mail-order service, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. There's no additional cost for delivery and most orders arrive in 2 to 4 business days. For more information, contact your health plan.
- If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath, and believe you may have been exposed, you should call your health care provider or local health department before seeking care. Contacting them in advance will help you get the care you need without putting yourself or others at risk.
- Members who are in need of non-urgent medical care should consider using a remote option like phone or video appointments. Telehealth appointments can be an effective way to get the care you need while practicing social distancing. All CalPERS health plans offer various forms of either phone or video appointments. Plan website and contact information can be found on our Plans & Rates page.
We remain in constant communication with state health officials and are following the California Department of Public Health's guidance as it relates to operations and the safety of our members, stakeholders, and employees. We are also in regular contact with CalPERS health plans to ensure that our members are getting the care they need.
You can access our website, myCalPERS, or call our Contact Center at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377) to conduct business with us and get questions answered about your retirement and health benefits.
As a reminder, these everyday actions can help prevent the spread of illness including:
- Wear a face covering
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Cover your cough and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue, and throw the tissue in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Stay away from work if you become sick
We appreciate your cooperation and patience during this challenging time.
Consult these additional resources for up-to-date information:
- California Department of Public Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization