Frustration in the Time of Covid…or I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot!

Since the Covid vaccines have become available in our state of Massachusetts, the overall experience of finding, then booking an appointment has been somewhere between ridiculous and impossible. Many friends & relatives have expressed continued frustrations over the NOT user-friendly websites, plus the daunting task of searching through multiple websites that are necessary to navigate in order to book a much-wanted appointment. I have been fortunate to book a few for family and friends when no one else could. So I thought I would give a little tutorial on how I am able to find the appointments when no one else seems to be able to. Two things: you have to be persistent, and you have to have your basic information at the ready once you begin the process. That includes, name, address, DOB, email, phone and some kind of Insurance #- whether its Medicare or something else-if you do not have that info handy, or don’t have insurance, then your SSN or drivers license# works too. The primary site here in MA is the www.vaxfinder.mass.gov – which was basically a free-for-all on Thursday mornings when they first released the open appointments for the upcoming days. Imagine a million people vying for tickets to their favorite concert venue for a performance that sold out in about 5 minutes time…well, you know, like getting tickets to Hamilton. That now has changed to a pre-registration format, so you can input your info there and wait ’til they email you with an open spot. Sounds great, right? No more sweating it out in front of your computer and laptop with multiple windows open, only to watch the number of available appointments dwindle to nothing? The thing is, at least for now, that resource is only for the MassVax sites- the giant venues like Gillette Stadium, Natick Mall and Fenway Park. However, aside from local health organizations like Lahey and MGH-Brigham-there are many other retail outlets-CVS, Osco, Walmart, Walgreens, Publix, Hannafords, that are offering the injections as well. Through this national website: vaccinefinder.org, I have managed to book appointments for friends and family members from MA to FLA! When you click on this site, you are asked to input a zip code for your preferred area.

Once you click on the green bar, it will take you to this window, and the towns within the zip code area (across the US) you choose will pop up. You can see that there are 45 providers listed here, all with available stock. But WAIT, this website sometimes lags behind when the shots are going fast and furious. So even though it says they have the stock, that is not always the case.

For this example, I chose the CVS Pharmacy in Stoneham, MA. After that, you need to click on Check Appointment Availability to see if those particular sites actually have the shots in stock.

On this website, the updating can be a bit delayed, so you have to click on the locations and sometimes you’ll get this:

When you scroll down to the end, it lists every CVS in the state and says that they are completely booked. So, for that moment, you are out of luck at CVS. You can go back to the first page and try for another retail outlet. BUT, if you see this red link– you are in luck! There are still appointments to be had!

So you click on that link and the next window to open will be this:

Answer those and click on to the page that asks if you need to start the process or if you only need the 2nd dose. By the way, I’m not sure what happens if you answer yes to any of those questions…luckily, I haven’t had to do that. Choose the correct response and then click to the page where it verifies if you are eligible to receive the vaccine in your state- the rules differ from state to state at the moment. Once you have verified that you are eligible:

You will see a screen that will begin the scheduling process that asks for the zip code for the area you are looking for( in this case I used a California zip code because the MA ones are all booked and I couldn’t go on to the next pages to illustrate) As you can see, the zip code I chose has dose dates available. So you click on that, and then open the available times link at that location.

This is where it gets tricky and you must persevere! You may get through to this point and be all excited and think yay! and then ugh, you click on the Show Available Times bar, it says there are no times available. Frustrating? Yup! But don’t give up! Just go back up to the date and click on that to see if another date is available. Keep clicking back and forth on that and hopefully one will open up. If still no luck, then go back to the page with the lists of places and try another one. Don’t log out and start over! Just keep repeating the process until you get your selected time and date and then go on to complete the process of selecting the second time slot. (If, at this point you are getting a message that says all sites are completely booked, you can stop the process and try again later). So go ahead and schedule your second dose- from this point on its smooth sailing!

At this point, you will be asked for your information. Once the message states that they are holding the slots, you can calm down, catch your breath and complete the process.

Once you input your information and click schedule appointment- you’re done! You will receive an email with the confirmation of your time and place for shots one and two. Now, this example was basically for CVS, because that is where I have been able to book most of the appointments. You can access that same info if you go directly to the CVS link and follow the process from there. Just remember- if that magic red link says Schedule Your Appointment Now– then there are slots available. They may not be in your hometown, but if you are willing to travel a bit, you’ll have more of a chance.

If you go to Walmart, for example, that one will look a little different,

but generally will follow the same format. And finally, don’t give up hope of getting your shot, if you want one. There are more on the way every day, and I know I’m wanting my shot at being one step closer to getting back to our normal lives : ) And if you need any help or further explanation, please shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to help!

I hope you have a shot at a sunny weekend, everyone! xoxoxo Susan

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