I’ve spent the last several weeks helping friends and family members who are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine book appointments. While it’s unfortunate how complicated it is to score an appointment there are luckily resources and strategies that can (hopefully) help you secure an appointment as well. The websites and availability are changing by the day so I’m not sure how long this will stay useful for.
- Gather the personal information of the friend or family member you are helping. Try and do this via a secure platform like WhatsApp, or delete the information right after. Make sure you have their permission to use this information. You will need:
- The person’s name as it appears on their NY ID
- Date of birth
- Phone number
- Insurance number (if they have)
- Group insurance number (if they have)
- Eligibility reason — If it’s for a comorbidity, you don’t usually need to include the specific comorbidity. You just check a box that someone has a comorbidity on the list. To be safe, I recommend finding out, which one it is in case they change the forms.
- Any dates, times or locations that are impossible for them
2. Have the following websites open on your browser
- NYC Vaccine list — one of the volunteer run websites that scans for vaccines, including pharmacies. This is a site you’ll want to refresh as often as possible. You can refresh on your keyboard pressing COMMAND + R on Mac and CNTRL + R on Windows at the same time.
- TurboVax — another volunteer run website which was covered in The New York Times. This is another site you’ll want to refresh as often as possible. You can refresh on your keyboard pressing COMMAND + R on Mac and CNTRL + R on Windows at the same time.
- NYC’s vaccine site — this is where you schedule appointments for all the locations in the five boroughs. You need to live or work in NYC too book an appointment at this site.
- NY State’s vaccine site — this is where you schedule appointments at the NY State and joint FEMA run locations.
- NYC Health + Hospitals site — this is the city’s hospital scheduling system.
- Here’s how you can save all these tabs at once in your bookmarks on Chrome so you can easily open them in future. I’m sure this is possible on other browsers too.
3. Follow these Twitter accounts and get push notifications anytime they tweet. Within minutes or seconds of seeing availability via a tweet, the slots could be gone so move fast. If a friend or family member tells you to just tell them when you see availability, remind them the slot could be gone by the time they get your message. As more vaccines get shipped to New York hopefully this will become easier, but for now it isn’t.
- @NYCShotSlots — Carolyn Ruvkun who is behind this amazing account, partnered with nycvaccinelist.com and was recently featured in the New Yorker.
- @ny_covid — NYC Vaccine Lists’ official Twitter account.
- @MarkLevineNYC — Mark is a NYC Council member and Chair of the Health Committee who often tweets about vaccine availability
- @melissadderosa — Secretary to Governor Cuomo who often tweets about vaccine availability
- Here’s a good article on how to turn on notifications for a specific account. I recommend doing this so you know instantly when they tweet about availability. Seconds matter.
4. Have the person’s info you are booking for in a place that’s easily copy and paste-able.
Once you get the information for the person you are booking, save it in a doc or notes app so you can easily copy and paste it into the scheduling websites. Especially insurance info which people often send an image of their card. While you’re not required to input insurance info for some of the sites it’s good to put it in if you have it so the location can charge a small admin fee to your insurance provider.
5. Master the art of refreshing on each of the schedulers so you don’t need to input information more than once. This is probably the most important part of scheduling. If you see availability but are stuck filling out one of the forms, eligibility will likely be gone by the time you get to the scheduler.
Here’s a GIF I made for the NYC system. After you fill out the initial form, if there is no availability, instead of refreshing and refilling out the form keep editing the Zip code. Even adjusting one number will refresh the availability. The site shouldn’t expire you should be able to keep this up all day.
UPDATED on 3/29/2021 TO REFLECT THE STATE’S NEW SCHEDULING SITE!
Here’s a GIF of how to fill out the form and then open links for each of the sites in different browser tabs. You can hold down the COMMAND button on a Mac when clicking the links to open in a new tab. I usually open up Javitz, Queens, Westchester and Jones Beach since those are the closest to NYC. If it says no availability you can refresh those sites all day in case there ends up being availability. You might end up in a virtual queue if there is availability. On most browsers you can easily refresh using your keyboard by pressing COMMAND + R on Mac and CNTRL + R on Windows at the same time.
NEW GIF FROM 3/29/2021
(OLD GIF IN CASE CERTAIN LOCATIONS ARE STILL USING IT)
Here’s a GIF of what it looks like when there is availability. If it is only showing one date (often the current date) there likely aren’t really appointments. It will let you click only to see no time slots for the day. If there is actual availability there will be multiple dates available (like you see in this GIF of the new zip code restricted sites). Never select the first date, scroll down and pick at least the 2nd or 3rd day option.
For the NYC Health + Hospitals site you can also avoid having to fill out the form each time. Just check and uncheck the box next to the name you and it refreshes the scheduler so you don’t need to fill out the whole form each time.
6. Have some patience, luck and know you are doing a good deed trying to help someone who is eligible book an appointment. While this system is frustrating New Yorkers should be very grateful for the volunteers at TurboVax and NYC Vaccine List for the sites they built. I know from trying to help someone in Illinois that it seems our state is in a better position because of those sites. Please help someone less fortunate than you are if you have the time, resources and patience to navigate these systems. It could save their lives. There are also other sites providing vaccines you can lookup here for NYC. This is only meant to be a guide for the NYC and NY State systems.
Please also consider supporting Welcome to Chinatown in honor of the hard work the volunteers at TurboVax have put into helping get thousands vaccinated.
7. More tips from the community that have come in since I published this.
The folks behind @NYCShotSlots shared a bunch of extra tips.
- NYC Department of Health Affiliated Physicians site: http://apschedule.com — These appointments are for people who are 65+ who live or work in NYC
- Doctors notes and medical records are not required to prove eligibility. You can just sign a self-attestation — it’s basically a legally binding form.
- You don’t need health insurance (for example, if you are concerned you might have some charge show up on your insurance account). By the time you fill out insurance info, the appointment is gone.
- Kingsbrook sometimes takes walk-ins: https://kingsbrook.org/Latest-News/Press-Releases/2021.aspx
- Here are links to the Northwell locations in East New York (link) and Bushwick (link). These haven’t had availabilities since the first week of February. According to the form, appointments are “intended for congregants and local Brooklyn community members.”
- New York Presbyterian portal (link here) for the 168th Armory site, if you aren’t already a New York Presbyterian patient, you have to create a Connect account and answer identity verification questions (which can often be questions only the person will know, like an old car model). You don’t have to be a New York Presbyterian patient to sign up. 60% of appointments are set aside for locals in Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx. The portal won’t show the appointments unless you’re in an eligible zip code. The customer support phone number they provide if you have issues making an account is usually helpful but they might ask you to conference in the person you are calling about.
As of Monday morning, Feb 22nd there are still thousands of appointments available for specific zip codes at the new New York State/FEMA locations in Queens and Brooklyn. If you know anyone in these zip codes please tell them to book before they open up to the rest of Queens and Brooklyn
Someone recently told me about https://hidrb.com/signup which lets you sign up for standby doses. I haven’t heard of anyone having success yet but it appears to be a smart effort to get doses that might be thrown out into arms.
Another great resource — a Google Doc I found that has great links and is being updated daily. Link here.
Just heard about GetMyVaccine.org on Twitter to help you search the Walgreens, Duane Reade and CVS. Link here. Follow them on Twitter by clicking here. Note, they do not indicate if the pharmacies are only scheduling for 65+ so make sure to check.
While there is no official process for waitlisting, it appears to be a requirement for the sites to have a standby list. Here’s a Twitter thread with some advice on how to hunt from @socflyny.
Another tip on refreshing the NYC H+H site
Phone numbers for 65+ to get free rides in NYC. I recently booked a ride for someone with Medicaid and you need their name, number and primary doctor to get added to the system. If they’ve used the system before you’ll need the number they used so try and get their cell and landline if they have one.
There’s a small pharmacy on the Upper West Side call Apthorp offering to 65+. I’ve been able to help three people book there so far. Even if their homepage says waitlist only you can probably refresh their scheduler to look for appointments for 65+. Click here for the scheduler.
I came across Vaccine Helper, a free service that helps New Yorkers get appointments. Click here for the website.
There’s a great site I just came across from a friend called VaccineHunter.org (link here). It lets you find vaccine hunting groups (for both eligible people and waitlists) for every state. It’s a fantastic resource and I know a friend in Washington State that was successful from it.
Vaccine Scheduler commented on my post to tell me about another amazing resource!
We are a group of volunteers primarily focusing on scheduling vaccine appointments for seniors, undocumented people, and those with other physical, mental, language, and technological barriers.
Link to sign up for our services: http://tinyurl.com/VaxNYC
Link to our Twitter: https://twitter.com/VaxNyc
They have been featured in several news outlets including Business Insider, 1010 WINS, Instyle Magazine, Norwood News, Univision (Spanish), and World Journal US (Chinese).
Natan Edelsburg is a native New Yorker living in Stuyvesant Town. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram and Medium @natanedelsburg.