One of the most frustrating tasks for many of us today is figuring out how and where to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination. It can be a real exercise of annoyance: the websites are often difficult to navigate and can crash regularly; In addition, you are often told that the opening has disappeared after finding an open appointment box and filling in several pages with questions.
In view of all this, we have tried to gather as much useful information as possible about ways to research vaccination appointments for yourself and others. We will update this as more information comes out.
Research vaccination qualifications in your country
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Find all the places that may offer appointments
Fortunately or unfortunately, there are many different sites where you can go to see if you can make an appointment to get vaccinated.
For example, here in New York City, we had to navigate several sites operated by the city and state. Different hospital systems also have their own locations, as do pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS, which have recently started offering vaccinations. It’s a lot to control – and it can be hugely confusing.
As a result, your first step is likely to check your state’s health website (searching for your state name and “COVID vaccine” will likely do it). If you are a city dweller, also check your city’s information site.
While most personal doctors don’t have access to vaccines, your doctor may be able to tell you some places to check. Other sources include your local hospital system, your union (especially if your job qualifies you for a vaccination) and of course friends and colleagues, many of whom have likely done their own searches.
Make sure to bookmark them when you find resources and sites. I keep a folder on my bookmarks bar called “COVID” – you might want to call yours something more cheerful.
Have all your information ready
Many of us who have tried to sign up for vaccination appointments have had the experience of filling out various information screens, only to find that the appointment was over by the time we got to the end. So it’s a good idea to have all of your information – such as your name, age, address, insurance information, and site registration ID / password – readily available. The faster you can go through the registration process, the more likely you will actually get an appointment.
Verge colleague Cory Zapatka says he highly recommends using a password manager if you have one. He created accounts with all vaccination sites in his area, even if they didn’t have any appointments at the time, so that if / when the time came, he could auto-fill out and get in right away.
And if you do get an appointment, make sure you already have the correct papers on hand – especially since available appointments can be last minute. Necessary paperwork can be proof of employment, proof of age or proof of a qualifying condition. Since the latter may require a doctor’s note or other record, it’s a good idea to call your doctor now – or if you have access to a doctor’s or hospital’s website, they can give you access to the evidence you need .
One more thing: make sure you have received all the email you received from your vaccine supplier. At least one employee of The edge found a necessary consent form hidden in her spam folder.
Keep an eye out for news about upcoming vaccination sites
Keep an eye on the news. More sites and hubs are being added as the US gears up for a stronger push. If you see a news item that says a hub is about to open, find the site for the hub and keep watching – once it’s open, the available slots will likely disappear soon.
One thing that sometimes helps is to look for patterns in the appearance of new appointments. For example, when I heard that the Walgreens pharmacy chain was going to distribute vaccines in my area, I went to the site for a few days and suddenly realized there was a pattern: The company only scheduled appointments two to four days in advance and added every day new appointments just after midnight. Once I understood the pattern, I was able to make appointments for some friends and let others know about it as well. (Note: Since vaccine stocks and planning methods can change in an instant, this particular strategy may not work by the time you read this.)
Seek help online
A number of online resources are popping up led by developers and other tech-savvy people who have taken the time and effort to understand this confusion. (Thanks to The Washington Post and The New York Times for some of these offers.)
- A NYC site called TurboVax gets “the latest appointments from 43 city and state-run vaccination sites in the NYC area” and posts them on Twitter. Followers who have set up their Twitter notifications for @turbovax can quickly find out about newly opened event units.
- Another called NYC Vaccine List uses a combination of scripts and volunteer checks to search different sites for openings.
- In California, VaccinateCA checks pharmacies and hospitals for information about open appointments.
Vaccinate NJ also employs volunteers to help state residents find vaccination options.
Covid 19 Vaccine TX is a crowdsourced tool for registering with local counties and finding locations where vaccines may be available.
- The MA Covid Vaccine Appointments site provides lists of and links to sites of available appointments
By the way, if you’re a developer and / or coder looking to help, check out US Digital Response, an independent organization that, according to its website, “connects experienced, pro-bono technologists with local government and non-profit organizations. who respond to a crisis. “
If you can, help others
One of the worst things about the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines is that those who need it the most are often the least likely to navigate the technology needed to get an appointment: the elderly, people with a disability or those who do not have or cannot afford computers and / or internet connections.
If you have the time and talent, reach out to someone you know who may not be able to arrange an appointment on their own. This can be as simple as finding phone numbers they can call to schedule an appointment, go online and make an appointment for them, or help them get to and from the vaccination site.
You can also check for groups organizing assistance. The West Side Ragreports, for example, that a group of New Yorkers set up the Vaccine Appointment Assistance Team (VAAT) to help their non-tech-savvy neighbors navigate the process. (At the time of writing this, VAAT had temporarily discontinued their services due to low vaccine supplies.)
Look for leftover vaccine
While the vaccines will last for six months while kept frozen, the Pfizer vaccine will last for five days after thawing and refrigeration, while the Moderna vaccine will last for 30 days. As a result, when people don’t show up for their appointments, some centers will offer vaccinations to those who may not qualify immediately, rather than wasting vaccines that would otherwise become unusable.
However, running to a nearby pharmacy or vaccine center in the hopes of getting some shots waiting at the end of the day isn’t the most effective way to get vaccinated. (Plus, getting hypothermia while waiting in the cold won’t help.) At least one group is trying to improve the situation: A pilot project called Vaccination Standby says it will monitor US suppliers for extra doses and text alerts to those whose zip codes located near the site.
There are also local organizations that provide standby lists. For example, Buncombe County in North Carolina has a vaccination waiting list and a standby list, as does the Monroe County Health Department in Indiana. Check your local government site to see if there is one near you.
Yes, it is frustrating as hell, but keep it going. If a website crashes, try again. If you dropped out after a phone call, call again (and have a game, video, or book ready to entertain yourself while you’re on hold). If you can’t find anything during working hours, try it late at night or very early in the morning.
Persistence is perhaps one of the most important aspects of making an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination. You might be tempted to give up, especially after showing up on the wall with ‘no appointments available’ over and over. But until vaccine production is ramped up enough to cover more of our population, and until distribution becomes more organized and easier to manage, simple stubbornness can be your best tool.
And hopefully this article, and all the advice in it, won’t be needed anytime soon.