Having trouble finding a COVID-19 vaccination appointment? These online resources can help

These methods increase the odds of locking in an appointment—especially when used in combination.

Credit: Steven Cornfield / Unsplash.com

Monday marks the first day of widespread eligibility across the U.S. for a COVID-19 vaccination, but some people have still struggled to find appointments. While luck does play a part in success, you can increase your chances by tuning into crowdsourced info and using websites that crawl vaccine appointment pages for open time slots.

Here are several COVID-19 vaccination resources we’ve used, listed in order of success, along with some general tips.

Already got jabbed? We also have some tips for keeping your vaccination card safe.

Facebook Groups

This method is word-of-mouth on steroids. Look for a local vaccine-themed group where members frequently share new appointment availability (sometimes referred to as “drops”), info on walk-up locations, and the best times to hunt for appointments on pharmacy, local health care provider, and mass vaccination websites. The best groups also give rundowns on their vaccination experiences at different sites so others will know what to expect for parking, wait times, etc.

In our experience, these communities are extremely helpful in guiding others through specific situations and offering tailored advice. Some individuals even generously volunteer to book appointments on behalf of people struggling to find an appointment.

To find a Facebook Group for your area, search for the name of your city or region plus “vaccine hunters,” “vaccine help,” or “vaccine info.” Select “Groups” in Facebook’s search results filter to more easily find a match.

Join more than one group if you can—being part of both a city-specific and regional one provides a good cross-section of information. For some places, the best group may focus on your whole state.

Health care provider notification lists

Local health care provider networks typically allow members to sign up to be notified when they’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. (Some allow non-members to create an account for this purpose, too.) While getting a heads-up in this manner isn’t a guarantee of availability, anecdotally, our friends and family found open time slots after receiving a text or email saying that they could schedule an appointment. In fact, in areas hustling to get vaccines into arms, you may find that you’ll receive a notification before your own independent search bears fruit.

Websites that find COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Sites like VaccineFinder and VaccineSpotter crawl pharmacy websites to find open appointments, and usually let you filter your search by distance and type of vaccine. Often they’ll ferret out a less traveled location in your area that you may not have thought of otherwise.

We have found that in more densely populated areas or places with fierce demand, results for available time slots aren’t always accurate. You’re often better served leaning on Facebook groups, bot accounts, area-specific coronavirus subbreddits, or signing up for a notification list with a health care provider or your local government.

Reddit

As you might expect, the world’s ultimate set of forums has area-specific groups (subreddits) dedicated to discussing the local COVID-19 situation. Some focus on statewide news (e.g., /r/coronavirusWA or /r/coronavirusCA), while others focus on a specific region (e.g., /r/coronavirusbayarea).

At the start of the pandemic, these tracked the spread and government handling of the virus, but later shifted to include updates on vaccine availability and now appointment availability. You’ll find mention of walk-up locations and pop-up locations, too, as applicable.

Similarly, subbreddits dedicated to a specific city or area can provide leads. Going this route may take a little more legwork to find groups that don’t fill your feed with mostly non-COVID info, but it may be possible for your area. For example, we found /r/AskSF more helpful than /r/coronavirusbayarea, and /r/sanfrancisco is semi-useless for this purpose.

COVID-19 vaccine bot accounts

If you’re lucky, someone in your area may have created a bot to comb for appointments at pharmacies, through local health care providers, and mass vaccination sites in your area. These bots then blast out the information to a central, easily followed service like Twitter, Discord, or Telegram. The San Francisco Bay Area, for example, can get updates via a group message on Telegram (BayAreaVaccineNotification) or the Bay Area Vaccine Bot on Twitter.

Like web apps that crawl pharmacy and other sites for vaccine appointment slots, you may find leads to be a bit hit or miss—but they’re still useful for getting an idea of which sites tend to have more appointments and the frequency of drops.

Tips for finding a COVID-19 appointment

  • If you need direct assistance with booking an appointment, try a Facebook group for your area or Vaccine Fairy. You will need to share personal information with these volunteers, so proceed at your comfort level. Facebook groups can usually provide more detailed leads as a middle ground.
  • If you are disabled or homebound, look for phone numbers on your city or county’s website that are specifically aimed to aid people in your situation. Some municipalities have special hotlines to help, as well as services that will administer the shot at your home.
  • Local groups or forums that share information in real time tend to be the most helpful, in our experience. Go as specific as possible, but still keep an eye on active communities for your region as well.
  • Local health care provider networks seem to be less impacted than pharmacies and some mass vaccination sites. Try them first.
  • The further you’re able to drive, the easier it is to find something. Booking an appointment in a less populated area (or place with lower demand) often results in success.

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Alaina Yee

PC World (US online)
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