With all Massachusetts residents 16 and older now eligible to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments and a limited number of slots available each week, the race for appointments is on.
The outsize eligible pool coupled with varying amounts of appointments at the state’s mass vaccination sites, pharmacies, and community health centers has set off a scramble for residents to book appointments for themselves or their loved ones.
After criticism about the signup process for the state’s seven mass vaccination sites, in which residents competed each week for a limited number of appointments, the state transitioned to a preregistration system that allows residents to input their information and become notified when a slot opens up at a mass vaccination site near them. Governor Charlie Baker has urged residents to be patient, cautioning that it will take weeks for eligible groups to land appointments and often issuing assurances that everyone who wants an appointment will eventually get one.
Despite the state’s adjustments, some residents are still finding it difficult to secure appointments and have turned to various word-of-mouth channels to find open slots. Additionally, a number of unofficial resources have been created to help residents find and book available vaccination appointments.
If you’re among those having trouble finding open appointments at the time you’re searching, here are a few tips.
Finding appointments at CVS
Some vaccine-seekers have had success finding appointments at CVS locations using a workaround: Selecting a state with lots of available appointments (such as Alaska) allows users to circumvent the initial statewide screening page that often shows no appointments available anywhere in Massachusetts. Users can then input their zip code and search for appointments near them. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: On CVS’s main vaccine page, select a state with plenty of appointments available, such as Alaska.
Step 2: Follow the prompts, answering the screening questions, until you reach the “determine eligibility” page, where you an select “Massachusetts.”
Step 3: Continue following the prompts until you reach a page that asks for your zip code. Enter your zip code (or the zip code for a location you’re willing to drive to) to see if appointments are available there.
Schedule an appointment in New Hampshire
As of Monday, out-of-state residents are now eligible to book a vaccine appointment in New Hampshire. Those interested in traveling to New Hampshire for an appointment can register at the state’s vaccine scheduling website.
Follow the Twitter account @vaccinetime
The Twitter account, which is run by software engineer Dan Cahoon, scrapes vaccine appointment websites and automatically tweets when new appointments are posted.
The account posts whenever appointments crop up at various locations across the state. Each tweet lists the number of open slots and where in the state they are available, whether at hospitals or pharmacy locations, and the posts include links to individual websites for residents to follow.
Sign up for e-mail alerts through COVID Vaccine Finder
Vaccine seekers can also sign up for e-mail alerts through COVID Vaccine Finder, a website run by three sisters that sends an e-mail when new appointments are posted. On their website, the sisters said they began their operation after realizing vaccine-seekers did not have hours to spend refreshing appointment websites.
“Instead, once you sign up on our website, you can go back to your life and just monitor your email: we’ll ping you immediately when appointments are available,” the website reads.
The site cautions users that when they sign up, they will receive about 10 e-mails per day as new appointments crop up. It also cautions residents that due to the high volume of people seeking appointments, the slots will get booked quickly, typically between 1 and 3 minutes after they’re released, imploring users to “click quickly when you see an email.”
Follow the Facebook group Vaccine Hunters/Angels Massachusetts
The group, which boasts 13,000 members, shares tips for how eligible people can book appointments and advice for securing excess doses, according to its description.
Members of the group answer each other’s questions about their personal experiences signing up for and receiving the vaccine, and alert others when appointments become available. Some are individually creating their own spreadsheets and documents to track when and where slots are opening up.
People who are willing to help others secure appointments will also volunteer their time to help others find slots, with some posting in the group asking if anyone is in need of assistance.
Get help from volunteers
The website Massachusetts COVID Vaccination Help is run by volunteers helping people to schedule appointments for the vaccine, with a special emphasis on those disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Users can sign up for help in booking an appointment, or view a list of resources for tips on booking their own appointment. Massachusetts COVID Vaccination Help says it’s helped book more than 20,000 appointments.
Sign up for text alerts through covidvaccinetexts.com
The website covidvaccinetexts.com will send users text messages when vaccine appointments are available at pharmacies nearby.
Users can enter their phone number and locations near them to be notified when slots open up at CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid pharmacies, one of the developers behind the site told WCVB.
Register with Dr. B, a COVID-19 standby list
Dr. B is a service that aims to connect people looking for COVID-19 shots with providers who have excess doses.
“Sometimes, patients have to cancel their vaccination appointments, leaving unused doses at the end of the day,” the website reads. “You can sign up to receive text message notifications when they become available near you.”
Dr. B began working with providers in Massachusetts last Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the service said in an e-mail to The Boston Globe, and is currently in conversation with more providers.
To register, people provide their phone number and basic information. Dr. B texts users when a nearby provider is looking for people to administer extra doses, and those who are interested can respond to the message to claim the dose and head to the provider at a certain time, according to its website.
Sign up for the wait list at Boston Medical Center
The BMC’s wait list is for people who are interested in being vaccinated at one of the hospital’s community vaccine clinics, the website says.
Users can submit a form and residents will be contacted by e-mail, phone call, or text message to book an appointment once they are eligible.
The wait list is for vaccination sites across Boston, including the Thomas M. Menino YMCA in Hyde Park, Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan, and Russell Auditorium in Dorchester, among others.
For Boston residents of color, visit the Equity in Vaccine Access Line
The city of Boston launched the Equity in Vaccine Access line to help residents in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic find and book vaccination slots.
For those who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and who identify as a person of color, residents can fill out an online form or call 617-635-5555.
Check in with your local pharmacy
Because of the conditions surrounding the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which need to be thawed and can’t be frozen again, clinics and sites are sometimes left with leftover doses. In the absence of uniform policies surrounding what to do with them, they’re also faced with the choice of how to use them.
Residents can check in with local pharmacies and other sites that are part of the federal government’s vaccine distribution program to see if they have extra vaccine doses.
CVS, for example, has significant wiggle room in how it administers additional doses.
“Our store teams will evaluate on a case-by-case basis how to most efficiently vaccinate eligible individuals with remaining doses,” said Joe Goode, a CVS spokesman told the Globe in February. “This may include local ‘wait lists’ of eligible individuals if appropriate.”
Goode noted that each pharmacy can identify which people are eligible for vaccinations from CVS patient profiles.
“Bottom line,” he said, “we’re taking steps to help ensure that these valuable doses will be put to the best use.”