Strategies for Finding a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment — Now That Everyone 16+ Will Be Eligible April 15

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Etzel Rubio at Berkeley Pediatrics fills a syringe in preparation to administer a vaccine. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)

Californians ages 50 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. And they have two weeks to book appointments before the state opens up fuller eligibility to all people ages 16 and older, starting on April 15.

But booking a COVID-19 vaccine appointment near you is easier said than done. Many people have already been struggling to find available slots, coming up against a lack of appointments and an often-confusing variety of online systems and sites.

On this episode of The Bay, we’ll give you some strategies for finding an appointment when you're eligible. Continue reading for the April 15 vaccine appointment checklist...

Guest: Carly Severn, KQED Senior Engagement Editor

Waiting for April 15 to Get Your Vaccine? Here's What to Do

Be Proactive and Stay Vigilant

Can you pre-schedule your appointment before April 15? The answer is: Maybe, because it depends on the provider you’re making your appointment through. The California Department of Public Health said that people ages 50 and older wouldn't be able to pre-schedule their appointments on My Turn ahead of their eligibility date of April 1 — but then My Turn opened up 50+ eligibility on March 31 anyway. So stay vigilant, and familiarize yourself with the process before "opening day." Your county might open up before you expect them to.

Make Sure You Aren't Already Eligible (Because of Where You Live or Work)

Your county or region may also have opened up 16+ eligibility early. For example, Contra Costa County opened up vaccine eligibility early, on March 30, to all people ages 16+ who live or work in the county. Alameda County, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Solano have all now done the same, and opened vaccinations to everyone ages 16+.

More widely, UC Davis Health has also opened up vaccine appointments to "anyone aged 16+", saying that the health center has "enough vaccine supply and appointments to expand eligibility before the state’s expansion on April 15." There's no residency requirement, but appointments are already scarce because of demand. Make an appointment as a current UC Davis Health patient, or make an appointment as a non-UC Davis Health patient.

Licensed vocational nurse Denise Saldana prepares the single-dose Johnson&Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Familiarize Yourself With the Systems

It's worth familiarizing yourself in advance with the various systems of vaccine scheduling online, so that you're ready when your own eligibility does come around. Get familiar with My Turn and your own county's systems, and find out which pharmacies near you might be offering the vaccine when your time comes. Remember, starting April 15 you'll be one of many people out there trying to find an appointment.

And on that note...

Have Your Insurance Card Ready

Many appointment systems will ask you to upload details of your health insurance, if you have it. Often you'll be asked to upload  photos of the front and the back of your health insurance card, so it's a good idea to a) know where your card is and b) even have the photos ready and waiting on your phone and on your computer, so you have them if you need them quickly.

If you don't have health insurance, don't worry: Your vaccine will still be free, and you can't be denied your vaccine because you don't have insurance.

Sign Up for Notifications 

Even if you're not eligible to get vaccinated right now — or you're waiting on universal eligibility to open up starting April 15 — you can sign up for the state's My Turn notification tool, which promises to let you know if it's your turn to get vaccinated and schedule vaccination appointments via email or text notifications.

You should also sign up for your county's notification system if they have one. Check your county. (One note for Alameda County residents: Consider also signing up for the city of Berkeley's vaccine interest list, as their Albany vaccination site run in partnership with Curative is often open to Alameda County residents generally, not just Berkeley residents.)

Make Sure You Aren't Already Eligible (Because of Your Health)

People with certain health conditions and disabilities that put them at "the very highest risk" from the coronavirus according to the state became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine back on March 15. See the state's list of eligible disabilities and conditions.

But if you're not eligible according to the state's list, you might be according to San Francisco's own list, which broadened its definitions of qualifying disabilities and health conditions beyond the state's to include more conditions and disabilities. And you don't have to live in San Francisco to be vaccinated in the city if you meet its health requirements.

Sponsored

Kaiser Permanente, which is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to its members, has also expanded upon the state of California's high-risk criteria to include more health conditions and disabilities than are listed by the state — and they're also wider than San Francisco's health criteria. Find more information about getting vaccinated this way through Kaiser Permanente.

Visit KQED's vaccine guide:

Episode transcript here.