As states across the U.S. open up their COVID vaccine access to everyone, the scramble for vaccine appointments has become, well, intense. Like, Black Friday sale on Le Creuset pots intense. Learning how to get a COVID vaccine appointment involves strong browser-refreshing instincts and a knack for research.
“My best tips are patience and community,” Sara, 24, a moderator for a Facebook group of vaccine angels, tells Bustle.
At the beginning of the vaccine rollout, it was hard to get an appointment because of limited supply and vaccine availability. Now, with nearly everybody able to get their shot, competition for available appointments is Olympic-level. As of March 31, 54.6 million people in the U.S. were fully vaccinated, with around 2.83 million doses being given every day. On March 11, President Joe Biden announced a target of May 1 for all adults to be eligible for vaccines; many states were able to beat that goal by nearly a month. The White House announced on April 1 that states would now each receive 14.5 million virus doses per week, per The New York Times. Now’s the time to get one for yourself.
Here are the best hacks for finding a vaccine appointment and getting your COVID shot ASAP.
How To Prepare For Your COVID Vaccine Appointment Search
As soon as you become eligible in your state, you should check your local health directory from this central Centers of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) listing and get all the information you can on who’s giving out vaccines, where.
Before you start the search for a vaccine, you may want to make it a community effort. If your friends or family have already gotten their vaccine, tap their brains for how they did it, including the websites they used and their best tips and techniques. “Reach out to friends and family,” Sara says. “You’re not alone and you will get your vaccine with a little help and support from those around you.”
Social media is your friend; follow Twitter accounts, bots, and Facebook groups to monitor available appointments in your area. In NYC, TurboVax is a good one to follow. But be wary, and don’t give out your Social Security number or other sensitive info to anybody claiming they can make an appointment for you.
Ready to log in or get on the phone? Gather all of your information beforehand, including your insurance card, if you’re insured. You won’t need to pay for the vaccine out of pocket no matter your insurance status, but the site that’s vaccinating you will bill through your insurance if you have it. If you are eligible for the vaccine because of a co-morbidity or because of your job, prepare documentation like a doctor’s note or a recent pay stub. You might not be asked for this proof when it comes time for your appointment, but better safe than sorry.
How To Find A COVID Vaccine Appointment
If you have a regular doctor, calling their office would be a good place to start — many are administering vaccines themselves now as they’re more widely available. If you don’t have a regular doctor, or your doctor’s not offering it, make a list of all the places you could possibly get an appointment locally, including hospital systems, pharmacies, and grocery stores. Look up information on when their appointments are released. Some vaccination sites now allow walk-ins, but those are still few and far between, and walk-in appointments may not be available to all age groups.
Not sure where you might be able to find a jab? Vaccine Finder, run by the CDC and Boston Children’s Hospital, is a good place to start, as are the AARP vaccine state finder and VaccineSpotter. Californians can check out VaccinateCA, while people in New York can check out NYC Vaccine List. New Jerseyians can use Vaccinate NJ, Texans can look at Covid 19 Vaccine TX for registering and finding appointments, and Massachusetts residents can use MA Covid Vaccine Appointments site. Volunteers in Washington have also created WA Covid Vaccine Finder. Sign up for local organizations that organize shots for those in your community, particularly if you live in a rural location.
Key to the process of snagging a vaccine appointment is being online when new appointments get released. You may need to do some digging on when vaccine appointments drop for a few days to have your browser at the ready. “CVS and Walmart typically release big waves at 12:00 a.m.,” Sara says. “Walgreens typically release before 8 a.m. and then randomly throughout the day.”
Standby lists are also a possibility for getting a vaccine. WIRED reports that some local or state health departments and pharmacies across the U.S are offering standby vaccines at the end of each day and may put you on the waitlist, and the Dr. B standby list will alert you to leftover vaccines via text.
How To Maximize Your Chances Of Getting A COVID Vaccine Appointment
You’ve got a list of places that might get you appointments, and now you want to nail one down. Open up the scheduling website for each location in a browser window, so you can easily tab through each place and refresh quickly. Lifehacker recommends using multiple devices if you have them, to work with several booking sites at one time. Try to make your search as broad as possible; if you’re only looking for vaccines in a very small geographic area, you may not come up with much, so if you have a car or are willing to travel, be flexible. Just make sure you’re able to get to any vaccine appointment you may make.
Technology is now your friend. To get through vaccine appointment online forms as quickly as possible, set up autofill settings so you can fill in information fast. And only fill out required information to increase your speed; all the details can wait. If you want to grab new appointments as quickly as possible, install browser extensions that can refresh pages automatically, or scan for any new information and send it to you quickly; The Wall Street Journal recommends Page Refresh and VisualPing, but there are many apps that can do this for you. If you get an error message, click enter, not back, so you don’t have to put in all the information all over again. And beware of fraudsters and unlocked websites; any credible vaccination site should have a small lock icon by the URL, indicating that it’s securely storing your information.
Calling a vaccine site directly to get an appointment can work, too, though expect to be on hold. If you do want to try to get onto a vaccine provider by phone, the Washington Post suggests setting up automated redialing on your smartphone using an app like Auto Redial, so that you can get back into the queue immediately if the call drops or is cut.
No matter how stressed you are, don’t make multiple appointments for one person, as that will take up valuable appointment space that you’ll then have to cancel. WIRED points out that if anybody in your vaccine-hunting group is worried about disclosing their immigration or citizenship status, government-provided vaccination sites like community centers often state on their websites that they don’t check for immigration details or health insurance. Check details on this before you make any appointments.
Reach out for help if you need it. “If you need help using one of the scheduling websites, or don’t know where to start, ask our community at vaccineangel.com (for CT/NY),” says Sara. “Vaccine Hunters also has a list of groups like ours for other states across the U.S.” And if at first you don’t succeed, she says, don’t give up. “Each week states receive new vaccines and replenish the stock. If you don’t find an appointment within the first half hour of your search, there is still hope!”