race for a vaccine

How to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment

As 'open season' begins in California, here are our best recommendations to beat the rush

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Let’s start with the state’s website, myturn.ca.gov. The Department of Health is streamlining it. It’s ditching the “Register and Eligibility” step. Instead, you’ll start with an option to “find an appointment.” 

But actually finding an appointment is easier said than done.

The state says what you see on MyTurn hinges on what providers send them. We’ve found that if you do a little more digging yourself, you can find other available sites or appointments.

So, where do you dig?     


First, check with your county’s public health office. And, if you’re willing to travel, check other counties, too. They likely have information about mass vaccine sites, which are among the easiest ways to get a shot. Sometimes, there’s with no appointment or waiting.

That’s what I did. I drove to Bakersfield because the mass vaccine site there opened eligibility to all ages and all counties early. I walked in and out within an hour. (We can discuss the 8-hour drive later.)

Closer to home, we searched Santa Clara County’s website the other night and found lots of open slots in Gilroy. We did not see those appointments on the state website. So, checking with your public health office might be key. 


If you are part of a health system, that might be easy way in. Your doctor's office might be able to assist you with setting an appointment. But even if you're not part of health system, the organization might be able to see you.

Sutter Health, for example, said it has administered more than 660,000 doses at its large-scale sites. It is currently "scheduling thousands of vaccination appointments throughout Northern California" due to increase vaccine supply. Sutter said everyone age 16 and older is eligible. You can schedule an appointment by clicking here.


You can also search pharmacy websites. They’re getting more doses and adding new appointments, too.

“Our goal is to be in every store,” said CVS’s Lisa Kalajian. 

She explained the CVS process. The federal government sends CVS supply notifications.

CVS applies what’s called the Social Vulnerability Index. It selects locations, then updates appointment system.

Kalajian says CVS does that regularly. But we saw the biggest batches of appointments each night, generally around 1 a.m. People grab them fast, so you might need to stay up late or get up early to score one.

“We absolutely are encouraging everyone to check regularly and not feel defeated or feel like there’s no vaccine left,” Kalajian said.

Walgreens told us it updates inventory weekly, but wouldn’t tell us what day. 


One message we’ve heard loud and clear is that pharmacies largely do not accept walk-ins.

“We are, actually, not allowing anyone to just come into the store,” Kalajian said. “We’re recommending people don’t do that.” 

You must have an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine at a chain pharmacy. 

That being said, call your closest pharmacy. Ask if they’re keeping a local “stand-by list” for no-shows or leftover vaccine. Many are. You don’t get much notice, but you might be seen much faster – if you’re lucky. This strategy worked for my colleague Arlen Fernandez at Telemundo 48 Responde. 

“It was worth my time,” she said. “Just try what I did,” she recommended.

If you get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you’ll need a second shot a few weeks later. The clinic should write the date you’re eligible on the back of your vaccine record card. More and more people are joining those ranks, so ask the nurses at your first appointment to set up and confirm your second appointment for you.


If they require you to book it yourself online or by phone, don’t wait. 

Kaiser is doing a lot of vaccinations. But recently it wasn’t even taking calls after 2 p.m. because it had run out of appointments to give. So, we recommend calling daily. And, ideally, early in the day. 

Side note: if you’ve traveled a long distance to get your shot, you don’t necessarily have to go back to the same location for shot two. Even though I got my first shot in Bakersfield, they booked my second for Santa Clara. All I had to do was ask. That took 45 minutes on the phone, but it’s a lot shorter than eight hours of driving, roundtrip.

Santa Clara County released information Monday about vaccination clinics accepting walk-ins starting Tuesday through Sunday, May 2. Details below.

Locations with multiple drop-in days:

  • Fairgrounds Expo Hall, 2542 Monterey Highway, Gate D, San Jose, CA 95111
    Tuesday 4/27 through Sunday 5/2, 8:30am-4:30pm
  • County Service Center, 1555 Berger Drive, San Jose, CA 95112
    Tuesday 4/27 through Friday 4/30, 7:30am-4:30pm
  • Emmanuel Baptist Church, 467 North White Road, San Jose, CA 95127
    Tuesday 4/27 through Friday 4/30, 8:45am-4pm
  • Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose, CA 95116
    Tuesday 4/27 through Thursday 4/29, 10:30am-4:30pm (Tues/Thurs); 12pm-5pm (Weds)
  • Gilroy High School, 750 West 10th Street, Gilroy, CA 95020
    Tuesday 4/27 through Friday 4/30, 8:30am-3:30pm
  • Mountain View Community Center, 201 South Rengstorff Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94040
    Tuesday 4/27 through Friday 4/30, 8:30am-5:45pm
  • Overfelt High School, 1835 Cunningham Avenue, San Jose, CA 95122
    Thursday 4/29 through Sunday 5/2, 10am-3pm (Th/Sun); 10am-5pm (Fri/Sat)

Single day drop-in clinics:

  • Martial Cottle Park, 391 Chynoweth Street, San Jose, CA 95136 (enter on side entrance at Chynoweth Street
    Tuesday 4/27, 10am– 4:30pm
  • Our Lady of Refuge, 2165 Lucretia Avenue, San Jose, CA 95122
    Wednesday 4/28, 10am – 4:00 pm
  • Milpitas Sports Center, 1325 E Calaveras Blvd, Milpitas, CA 95035
    Wednesday 4/28, 10am – 4pm
  • ConXion, 749 Story Road, San Jose, CA 95122
    Thursday 4/29, 10am-5pm
  • Tafatolu Congregational Church, 2510 Alvin Avenue, San Jose, CA 95121
    Thursday 4/29, 9:30am – 4pm
  • John Vianney, 4600 Hyland Avenue, San Jose 95127
    Friday 4/30, 10pm – 4pm
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