10 Tips to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Beasley on May 14, 2021
  • young adult woman crossing fingers checking online content
    Not Sure How to Navigate Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment?
    Scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment online isn’t as simple as many people expected. There’s no centralized scheduling system and you have to figure out how it works for your state, as well as your health department, doctor’s office, or pharmacy. Fortunately, it is getting easier to book appointments now, and some clinics—mainly mass vaccination centers—accept walk-ups. If you prefer to schedule your vaccine, people who have been successful getting appointments have been sharing their tips for handling the technology, processes, and preparation.
  • young woman showing her grandmother a digital tablet
    1. Find local info.
    One of the easiest ways to find a COVID-19 vaccination site near you is to search online for “Covid vaccine” in your local town or area. You can also search this term on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Nextdoor. Helpful neighbors are posting their tips for getting appointments at local sites and some are even volunteering to help seniors book appointments. If you get help from a volunteer, just be careful not to share sensitive personal information like passwords and social security numbers.
  • senior woman of color smiling while using smartphone
    2. Sign up for wait lists, emails, and alerts.
    The demand for vaccinations varies by location. In some places, it is so high that many local health departments, healthcare systems, and pharmacies have online waitlists that notify you when an appointment slot opens up. You can even sign up for Twitter alerts about the vaccine and follow your local health department for updates. Another tip is to create an online account with your health plan’s website, so they’ll contact you when they have appointments available. The key is to get on as many notification lists as possible to increase your odds of getting scheduled.
  • Caucasian man wearing eyeglasses concentrating while using computer at desk near window
    3. Practice using the scheduling websites.
    Once you know which vaccination locations you’re interested in, practice using their online scheduling website. It’s probably going to take some time to get an appointment booked, so make sure you know exactly how to use their system and what information you need to input. Do a test run and bookmark the links of the sites you want to keep trying. It’s likely you’ll need to reload the site in your web browser every few minutes to see when new appointments are made available.
  • young man helping his grandfather use smartphone to shop online
    4. Get your information ready.
    You’re going to have to enter a lot of personal information, so have it ready. Gather up your drivers license or ID, copies or photos of insurance cards, email address, mailing address, phone number, and basic personal information. This is especially important if you’re scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments for someone else. It’s also important to have an email address when scheduling online, because they may send you a verification code and confirmation info via email. Keep in mind that the coronavirus vaccine is free, but some states want you to input your insurance information if possible.
  • Web browser closeup on LCD screen with shallow focus on https padlock
    5. Set up autofill in your web browser.
    Since you may be filling in appointment information on several websites and every time you reload a page, it’s easier if you set up your browser to autofill your information. Open Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Edge and find Settings or Preferences. Then look for the Autofill or Personal Information settings. This is where you can store details like your name, email, address, and phone number. The next time you go to the appointment form, the browser will automatically fill in the basic information for you.
  • happy heterosexual couple planning monthly schedule and budget
    6. Check retail pharmacy websites.
    If you’re not having luck getting an appointment through your health department or healthcare provider, try your local retail pharmacies and grocery stores. Many national retail chains like Walmart and CVS offer in-store vaccinations. You can usually book online by creating an account through their website or mobile app. It’s smart to test out their scheduling tools, because they’re all a little different. Retail locations seem to be opening up new COVID-19 vaccination time slots more frequently, but they may have limited hours.
  • senior man wearing face mask and holding covid-19 vaccination record card with thumbs up sign
    7. Cast a wide net.
    If you live in a metropolitan area with a large population of people who want to be vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccination appointments may go fast. Some people report having luck finding appointments farther away from home. If you can drive an hour or so, you may be able to get an appointment more easily. Just make sure there aren’t any restrictions. For example, it’s possible only people from that local area may be eligible for appointments in that location. If you’re open to traveling for your vaccination, you might be able to make a nice day trip out of it.
  • multitasking Latino father working on computer and smartphone at home as baby girl sleeps on sofa
    8. Look for appointments later in the day.
    Here’s a pro tip: Check the online scheduling websites later in the day. Some vaccination centers will open up new appointments to use vaccines they leftover because people didn’t show for earlier appointments. There are even services, like Vaccination Standby, that keep an eye out for extra doses that are available across the United States. They’ll send text notifications to people who live nearby. Your local health department may also have a standby list.
  • senior woman in her kitchen wearing eyeglasses when looking at smartphone
    9. Don’t be afraid to call.
    If online scheduling is frustrating or not an option for you, try calling. Though the vaccination locations prefer that you book online, they may let you book over the phone. Don’t be afraid to use it if you need personalized help. You may have to wait on hold, but it could be worth it. Some states even have hotlines to help seniors book COVID-19 vaccination appointments. If you have a smartphone, you can also use an app for automated redialing.
  • healthcare provider giving a senior woman a vaccination
    10. Set up your second shot soon.
    Most currently available and future versions of COVID-19 vaccine require two doses. So, after your first COVID-19 vaccination, you’ll need to get a second shot in 3 to 4 weeks. (The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is the only authorized single-dose vaccine.) The timing of your second shot depends on which brand of vaccine you receive (the Moderna vaccine shots are spaced 28 days apart; the Pfizer-BioNTech shots are 21 days apart). It’s ideal to go ahead and schedule both shots if you can.

    Some vaccination systems, such as pharmacies, are allowing people to book their second vaccination when they set up their first one. If you can’t do that or you forget, contact the location where you got your first shot to book your second round.
10 Tips to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment

About The Author

Elizabeth has been writing for Healthgrades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
  1. How To Sign Up For A COVID-19 Vaccine In Your State. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/02/18/967448680/how-to-sign-up-for-a-covid-19-vaccine-in-your-state
  2. 8 tips for finding a COVID-19 vaccine. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/8-tips-for-finding-a-covid-19-vaccine
  3. Tips From Mass. Residents Who Successfully Booked Coronavirus Vaccinations Online. WBUR. https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2021/01/28/tips-mass-residents-coronavirus-vaccinations-online
  4. What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html

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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 5
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.