How 15 California residents snagged vaccine appointments – SF Gate

California is expanding vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 and over beginning April 15, and hundreds of thousands of people will be scrambling to find appointments.

You may have heard finding an appointment can be tricky. While health care providers, pharmacies and counties are continually opening appointments daily, they go fast.

To help you book an appointment if you’re newly eligible, we asked readers to share their experiences with securing slots to provide tips for others navigating a system that is confusing and overwhelming.

In their stories, we noticed a few trends. One is that some people just get lucky and happen to be at the right place at the right time or log onto a vaccine site when an onslaught of appointments suddenly becomes available.

An even bigger trend we noticed is that finding an appointment online can take time, days even hours. Many readers told us the website VaccinateCA, run by a group of volunteers who call hospitals and pharmacies for vaccine availability, is a great resource for finding appointments. Another great resource: the Bay Area Vaccine Bot at @CovidVaccineBA on Twitter that posts real-time updates on vaccine availability.

Below we share anecdotes on how readers found appointments. Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity in some cases.

Here’s how SFGATE readers found vaccine appointments

“On Wednesday, March 17, my former colleague of Livermore texted me that there were vaccine appointments available at the CVS located in Hanford. I quickly went onto the CVS website, saw that most locations were totally full, except Hanford. When I navigated through the CVS website, not only did I find many open appointments, I was able to schedule the same time as my friend on March 21. CVS also automatically scheduled the 2nd appointments exactly three weeks from the first appointment. During our 2nd visit on April 11, they noticed many appointments still open.

“Both round trips, Montara to Hanford via Livermore yielded 952 miles. We both felt lucky to have been able to obtain these appointments and grateful to the nurses and staff at the CVS located at 574 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford.” —Alan Joss, Montara

“I noticed in the paper that Contra Costa County was opening vaccine sign-ups to anyone over 50 that lived or worked in the county.  I work at the old Ford Factory on Harbour Way South. The day of the announcement, I went to the county website to sign up, but was not able to do so since I did not fall in any of the eligible categories.  It appears the website was updated to allow for over 50 sign-ups the next day. That was Tuesday, March 24.  On Thursday night, March 26, I received a text with a link to the sign-up website.  I chose a few locations near my workplace and scheduled an appointment at one of them.  I received the first shot by Pfizer on April 1st.  While waiting during the observation period, I received a text with my second appointment, scheduled for April 26th.” — David Taylor

“I just started looking yesterday [4/1] as I had assumed our doctor at UCSF would let us know when our turn would come up. But I was told by a friend it was every man (or woman) for himself during this pandemic so mother-in-law told me to go to VaccinateCA, which I did. It showed a list of places where to go, but they were fully booked. However, I kept scrolling down the site and San Francisco State University came up and they had appointments for the vaccine for my husband (55) and me (59). Honestly, I felt kind of guilty because I keep hearing that people are having trouble getting appointments and we got in right away.” — Mallory Graf

“I received my second COVID vaccine shot on January 11 by being a participant in the AstraZeneca trial being conducted at SF General Hospital. I was at the hospital on a follow-up appointment after cataract surgery and happened to see a sign. I’m 77, diabetic, high blood pressure, a prime suspect.” — Mike Kemper

“About 10:30 a.m. this morning (not 2 a.m., not 3:17 a.m., but in the middle of the freakin’ morning), I optimistically searched for ‘COVID vaccine santa clara county’ using ‘the search engine whose name we dare not speak,’ and managed to score appointments for my wife and me (we’re just now just now eligible) that are — get this — at the same place, close to our home, and at ‘back-to-back’ convenient time slots. If we actually are vaccinated without a hiccup, we’ll go straightway to buy lottery tickets.” — Tony S., San Jose

“I guess it’s pure luck. I am 50-plus and live in Contra Costa County, Walnut Creek to be exact. I went to the MyTurn website at 6:30 p.m. on April 2 and scored the 4:20 p.m. appointment on Sunday, April 4, at the Oakland BART Coliseum site. By the way, give minutes later those appointment slots were completely gone. There is really no special skill involved, just keep trying at different times, I had tried it at 1 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. … during lunch break at work, between watching episodes on Netflix. The process is no different from looking for work (something I’d done a lot last year), you have to be persistent and not get discouraged.” — Tom Lim

“Please inform your readers that scheduling an appointment at can be a bit tricky.  When I looked for an appointment I scrolled all the way to September and nothing was available. Then I scrolled back to April and the information had downloaded.  It seems the pages need time to load. I was then able to schedule two appointments for the next day.” — Sylvia Hays

“After constantly refreshing what seemed like all the vaccine sites to no avail, by luck yesterday evening I saw a timely tweet by @CovidVaccineBA that the Oakland Coliseum had appointments for the Johnson & Johnson shot. I jumped on that and booked my appointment for this Sunday through” — Denise Iwamoto

“I guess I got really lucky. I’m 73 and live in Richmond. In early January, I signed up for notification on Contra Costa County’s COVID website. In mid-January, I received an email that because I was over 65, I could make an appointment through My Chart. I made an appointment for Jan. 28 at Richmond’s City Auditorium. About a week before my scheduled appointment, the county backtracked to 75-plus but honored appointments already made. I got my first shot on Jan. 28 (Pfizer) and then got my second shot on Feb. 19. The county was very organized and getting an appointment online was easy. Meanwhile, Sutter Health, of which I am a member, was either not taking appointments or canceling 95,000 existing appointments. It’s now reported that Contra Costa County has surplus vaccine. Go figure!” — Karen Kempler

I’m retired and live in Healdsburg. I’m 64 with no severe underlying health conditions so I didn’t qualify until April 1 when the state opened up vaccinations to people 50 and over. I sent on my Kaiser Permanente account and tried to book an appointment. No luck anywhere close to home. The closest Kaiser location with availability was in South Sacramento, an over two-hour drive one way. Kaiser also requires you to return to the same location for the second dose. Being a retired I.T. guy, I sat in my easy chair with my laptop for several hours refreshing the screen hoping for a cancellation. I found one in Santa Rosa for three weeks from now. I went on Nextdoor and posted my experience. I tried the MyTurn web portal. It’s a complete joke. Using my ZIP code, it came up with two vaccination sites with openings. Both were in Lake County and both required Lake County residency. One of my neighbors on Nextdoor posted there were spots available at a certain link.  It’s right here in town at Healdsburg High School administered by Alliance. I secured an appointment for this coming Tuesday. As of right now, there are still appointments available. It’s word of mouth and lots of luck to secure a vaccination appointment.” — Dana Hom

“I am under 65 and received a phone call six weeks ago from the Veterans Affairs to schedule my COVID vaccine. They were running ahead of schedule I guess, or maybe I was phoned because I am a sole caregiver for an elderly parent and I have pre-existing conditions. I was not looking to book an appointment as I was not 65 or older, so their call caught me by surprise. At any rate, they offered an appointment for two days later. ” — A. Farley

“It took me half a day to find an appointment. I started at 4 a.m. and found one at 1 p.m. There were no appointments available in San Francisco. All I did was refresh, check, refresh, check. I used VaccineFinder, MyTurn, Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid, medical health centers, UCSF and Kaiser — and hit the jackpot with Sutter Health. It was so frustrating, but I felt an urgency. I knew it would become harder when they opened up to everyone. I had to drive to Great America Parkway, but it was worth it. Sutter was very organized and quick. There was even parking.” — Tracy Silva

“A neighbor that’s a yoga teacher-caterer told me he just walked up to S.F. General and got in line. After realizing that I was eligible, I walked over and talked to a nurse. ‘If you come early there’s a line, but around 11 a.m. it thins out,’ the nurse told me. Sure enough, the next day at 11 a.m., there was no line and I was in and out in under a half-hour. There are many places that take walk-ups (here’s a link to some in San Francisco) and it’s a lot easier than clicking refresh or logging on at 3 a.m. to find an appointment. Sometimes the easiest solution isn’t the most obvious one — clicking around for hours allows you to book an appointment from your couch, but just showing up guarantees you a spot in the line. Many seniors don’t have the internet so this is great for them.” — Andrew Lawrence

“We got an appointment for my wife, age 64, from Kaiser via their website on Wednesday night about 9:30 p.m. Closest location was 30 miles and first time was eight days hence.  I’m 71 and had already been poked; the drive was 45 miles each way, two times. By the way, I photocopied by vaccination card, reducing it to 80%, and then laminated the copy and cut it down to the exact size of my driver’s license to carry in my wallet. Keep the original with other important papers.  I’ve asked a few people if they wanted to see my Fauci Card. Nobody’s been interested. I show them anyway.” — Tom Ruppel, Dixon

“I am a USMC veteran OIF/OEF, and I am conservator for my little brother who has Down syndrome. I am fortunate to have many resources including the Veterans Affairs to help me in my search for scheduling a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. But like most in the Bay Area, I have also been calling every number, emailing every address provided to me from over seven different agencies, some of these including federal. And I also have been stonewalled every time. Anyway to make a long story short, after almost two weeks straight of calling everyone and emails, I finally just took a chance, contacted our basic health care provider Kaiser and went on their website at Yesterday at around 16:30 hours, I called the 800-number provided and was put on hold. I stayed on hold for exactly 57 minutes and 43 seconds. I know this because I had reached my level of patience and had my fiance record me saying I would only wait on hold for another few minutes, making it exactly one hour on hold time. Then I would hang up. But just as soon as I was about to give up, I was greeted by an agent and she was able to schedule me and my brother for vaccination shots. But the catch was they were nowhere close to home, and also sort of an inconvenience with most social family holiday gatherings because our appointments are scheduled for this Sunday, on Easter, all the way in Stockton.” — Matt Katovich

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