Useful Links for Scheduling Your COVID Vaccine
I usually just post this stuff on my Instagram @snotdoctor, but I thought that this might also be useful to people who don't follow that. I have been vaccinating people at some of our Mt. Sinai facilities (in Manhattan and Brooklyn), and lots of people have been asking me for help with this. So I tried to organize my list of vaccine scheduling sites in a way that makes them easy to reach.
These sites mainly cover New York City and State. That’s the nature of appointment scheduling - the best resources tend to be local, since there is no good nationwide site at this point. I don't have as much experience with scheduling in New Jersey (where I also see patients), but this is the NJ state central hub.
I put many of these on my Instagram link page at https://www.flowcode.com/page/snotdoctor, This makes it easy to try them all, especially if you are reading this on a smartphone. But I'll go into a bit more detail below.
Of course, the first thing that you have to do is to find out if you are eligible. Right now, New York State is doing shots for groups 1a and 1b (including the 1b expansion from 2/15). I know that more and more of you may be now eligible for vaccination in NYC with the expanded 1B category (BMI of 30, for example, covers a lot of people). The good news is that with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine getting emergency use authorization, it may only be a few months before anyone can get a vaccine, sooner than originally expected! Fingers crossed.
Some people have asked me about "extra" shots, that are left over at the end of the day and which may even be given to non-eligible people so they don't go to waste. This is a pretty complex topic, both ethically and logistically. There are rare situations where this happens on a large scale, but the vaccination pods are pretty good about not making up more vaccine than they need for scheduled appointments. However, there are sites where you can sign up for alerts about this, such as vaxstandby.com and Dr. B.
The operational decision to administer expiring vaccine to ineligible people is a decision made by individual pod administrators. Since there are potentially big fines for doing this, it doesn't happen very often. These standby sites seem to be primarily designed for eligible people who are having trouble getting a regular appointment.
The main official NYC sites are the city sites vax4nyc.nyc.gov and vaccinefinder.nyc.gov, and the NYC Health and Hospitals site at covid19.nychealthandhospitals.org. There is also a New York State site at am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov. You can go directly to these sites and try to book appointments. But there are other ways to do this that may be more efficient.
One of the most clever projects in this field is turbovax.info. This is a system that automatically surveys 53 official government vaccination pods in the NYC area to look for available spots. It then posts them on a twitter account and on the website. This is a wonderful effort, check out the "about" page for more information.
Another project that relies on volunteer labor as opposed to automation is the NYC Vaccine List, which lets you sign up for notifications about appointments as they become available in specific locations. Neither this site nor Turbovax will make appointments for you, you have to do that yourself quickly, as soon as you determine availability.
There are also a few smaller projects that harness volunteer labor to help people get spots - this is especially helpful for people who aren't so technically inclined, including many senior citizens. Check out Epicenter NYC, or covid19vaccineappointments.com, run by two Long Island teenagers Ava and Lilly Weinstein.
Some pharmacy chains are providing direct access to booking appointments - CVS isn't doing that in New York City yet, but RiteAid is. And for those who really don't want to book online, there are still telephone scheduling lines operated by the state (1-833-NYS-4-VAX, which is 833-697-4829) and the city (1-877-VAX-4-NYC, which is 877-829-4692).
The one site that I linked to that does cover more than the NYC area is an older site, vaccinefinder.org. This one was developed by the CDC and Boston Children’s Hospital. The underlying system has been around for a while - it was launched 9 years ago, and has been used to help people find a variety of vaccines (flu, etc..). It doesn’t rely on volunteer labor, it draws from the mandatory reporting that health care providers are supposed to do on a regular basis to determine availability. This is a less than perfect system, since that reporting doesn’t always happen in a timely manner.
The site will show you providers on a map around your location, with the latest inventory data so that you can make an appointment. Right now, except for a few states, the site only shows vaccine providers that get supplies directly from the federal government. But over the next few weeks more and more providers will be added, so it should get more useful over time. It is now covering New York State, but not NYC yet!
Now that a lot of the country has moved towards reopening indoor activities and removing mask requirements, there is even more urgency to get these vaccines into arms. The official line is still that vaccines are primarily given to keep people from dying or getting seriously ill with COVID. But more and more it seems that they are also preventing transmission of the virus and reducing the number of new cases. With the variants (especially the UK variant) poised to spread rapidly, I feel like there is even more of a sense of urgency to push against that tide with our vaccination efforts. Fewer cases means less spread AND less mutations, so less evolution of new strains.
As I wrote the other day, the approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is incredibly encouraging, but the effort to shut down the pandemic still relies on all of us. We can ALL wear masks and watch our social distancing for the next few months, until we get closer to herd immunity. We can ALL get vaccinated when it is our turn. We can ALL try to educate ourselves in good faith about the science behind this vaccination effort, and the phenomenal achievement that it represents. And we can ALL talk to friends and family who may be getting bad information, and convince them to help during these critical next few months, and save lives.
I know that there is a lot of conflicting information out there. I know that it’s hard to keep up. But we really can do this.