Key Takeaways

  • Prepare to book your appointment by gathering your personal information, knowing your availability, and speaking to your doctor about any medical concerns.

  • Use a vaccine finder website, join a local COVID-19 vaccine Facebook group, or contact your pharmacist to help locate an appointment.

  • Recruit a helper, especially if you need assistance navigating the Internet or if you don’t have an email address.

As eligibility opens up around the country for COVID-19 vaccines, many are still struggling to secure an appointment to get their shot(s). 

Back in February, I tried to help several eligible family members secure a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Despite my computer science degree, it was a challenge to find appointments due to low supply and extremely high demand. If I couldn’t figure this out, I wondered how older adults and non-native English speakers would be able to navigate this system.

Tips From a Volunteer Who Has Helped More Than 500 People

I offered help to a few friends for their parents and/or grandparents, and so it began. Forty-five days later, I volunteered to help over 500 people, mostly older adults and non-native English speakers, secure COVID-19 vaccine appointments. 

If you’re still having trouble getting an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccine, here are a few tips I learned along the way when helping others.

Prepare to Book Your COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment

Gather all of your information ahead of time. Some websites have a time limit, and you could lose your appointment if you need to grab your insurance cards, for example.

Most registration sites ask for the following information: Full legal name, birthday, home address, email address, and phone number.

Know your schedule before you dive into the booking process. Most appointments are three (3) to seven (7) days away from the time you are booking. 

Opt to save your information in your Internet browser’s system ahead of time. In addition to being efficient, when you start typing your name, a list of saved addresses will show up allowing you to select the right one. Then just double check your info and submit to confirm your appointment faster than if you had to type it out.

Read the medical disclosures ahead of time so you’re aware of the fine print. They can be found here from the FDA:

Ask your doctor ahead of time when they recommend you get a COVID-19 vaccine, if you have recently had COVID-19, or if you have recently received other vaccines. Memory can be a tricky thing, and you will need this information.

Finding a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment

Sign up for any local notification scheduling systems through your state, you never know when you will receive a link to book an appointment. When a notification is sent to you, your appointment might only be a few days away.

Check these vaccine finder sites often:

Check retail pharmacy chain websites, and ask your local pharmacist if they have any knowledge of the next batch of vaccines arriving to their store or the area.

Ask local pharmacists if they have a waitlist that you can be added to, in the event of extra doses that need to be urgently used at the end of the day. 

For the past few weeks, Walgreens has had added new appointment on Fridays. Signup for an account at ahead of time so you are ready to book. often loads new appointments at 12:00 AM, 12:30 AM, 1:00 AM, 1:30 AM, or 6:20 AM. The available store locations and type of vaccine offered often changes so check back every few days.

If you only need a second dose appointment, CVS and Walgreens will give you that option during the registration process. Depending on supply, they might not show available second dose appointments until four (4) to five (5) days before you are 21 days (Pfizer) or 28 days (Moderna) beyond the first dose.

Helpful Reminders

  1. If you’re looking to get vaccinated as soon as possible, flexibility is key. Being open to any vaccine, travelling 30 or more minutes from home and having several days or times that you can go to an appointment will help speed up the process.
  2. Recruit a helper.
  3. The vaccination system in the U.S. is still evolving and can be difficult to navigate.  Recruit a neighbor, friend, or local college student to help you get an appointment.
  4. Many states have “Vaccine Angel” groups that will collect your information and help find you an appointment.
  5. There are also several states with state-wide Facebook groups dedicated to sharing any appointments that they see posted and offering support to anyone needing help.
  6. REMEMBER: Never share your social security number with anyone, it is not required for an appointment. Insurance is also not required and can be provided during your appointment instead of sharing this information with a stranger.
  7. If you are homebound, call your local health department. Many towns are arranging for a nurse to bring vaccines to older adults who are sheltering in place.
  8. Pick up the phone, especially for older adults. Many pharmacies and/or retail locations will book older adults over the phone. It’s worth a shot!
  9. Avoid vaccine scams, and learn how.