More and more groups are becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, yet appointments are still scarce. Don’t despair.
Doing some smart research could put you closer to the head of the line. In this article, we’ll lay out some online tools to help you locate and book your shot. We’re going to run through official and unofficial sources. Your best bet might be researching with both types to maximize your chances.
STRATEGY 1: START WITH OFFICIAL SEARCHES
Begin at vaccinefinder.org. It plots availability on a map – by zip code and radius. On its maps, green dots are places that have vaccine. You can trust it. It’s an official project of Boston Children’s Hospital and is supported by the CDC.
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California’s official vaccine website is myturn.ca.gov. If that page doesn’t have anything open – which is highly likely – you should check your local public health office. When Contra Costa County opened to everyone 16 and older, for example, people had to book through the county first.
STRATEGY 2: CALL YOUR INSURANCE & LOOK IN THE VALLEY
If you’re part of a big health plan, see if they have slots. Expand your search radius. We found many open appointments in the central valley. Some were open for same-day booking.
If you're concerned about taking time off from work to drive a couple hours, ask your boss or HR department if you can get paid time off for a vaccine. Many companies are offering this perk, even if they aren't exactly advertising it to workers. The State of California requires some employers to pay employees.
STRATEGY 3: CHECK LOCAL PHARMACIES DURING OVERNIGHT HOURS
Pharmacies like Safeway, Walgreens, and CVS are offering shots. You can book directly with them, online. Their locations are convenient, but their appointments have been hard to get so far. Some folks online say batches of new appointments are loaded at midnight. So, we asked CVS about that. A rep said “new appointments open at various times of the day.”
We watched over a few hours one night.
Its system seemed to update about every 30 minutes. Midnight came and went with no big change. But then, we saw a spike around 1 a.m. The number of CVS locations with open slots statewide shot from just 15 to 149. It held steady for a bit. But then, around sunrise, we saw a steady morning drop-off. Almost all appointments were gone by 10 a.m.
STRATEGY 4: TRY FREE, UNOFFICIAL TOOLS
Some unofficial websites like vaxxmax.com and vaccinespotter.org might do some research legwork for you. They comb multiple clinic and pharmacy sites, then combine availability data into lists or maps that are simple to use. You don’t even have to register, you can just search.
What about leftovers – from no-shows or cancellations? Weeks ago, the state said you could sign up to volunteer at vaccination sites and possibly be given extra doses. It’s not clear how many people got that lucky. If you want to try anyway, you can still sign up at myturnvolunteer.ca.gov.
STRATEGY FIVE: JOIN THE UNOFFICIAL WAITING LIST
What about doses that are leftover at smaller clinics and pharmacies? NBC Bay Area’s Scott Budman recently reported that the website Dr. B created a clever unofficial “stand-by list.”