In New York City, hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses are now being given out each week, and everyone 16 and older is eligible for a shot. But the task of figuring out how to get one remains daunting.
Some people get lucky in their quest. A friend recently stumbled upon a pop-up vaccine site in Bed Stuy, asked if any slots were available, and had a needle in her arm 10 minutes later.
But many may be lost in the maze of sign-up websites and feel their patience tested. These sentiments often apply even to those ‘vaccine angels’ offering to help book appointments for less tech-savvy people or face other barriers to access.
So, take some slow, deep breaths and check out these tips for getting vaccinated.
All New Yorkers 16 and older are now allowed to get inoculated against COVID-19, but be aware that some vaccine sites still only serve certain populations, such as residents of the borough in which they are located, people over 65, or, say, theater workers.
Most people are encouraged to get the first vaccine available to them, regardless of the manufacturer, but only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. So that age group needs to make sure that brand is available at the site where they’re booking the appointment.
What to Bring
Mask up and bring your ID or other proof that you are 16 or older and reside in New York (and that you meet any other eligibility criteria of the specific site you’re going to).
If you are eligible to get vaccinated in New York because you work or study here, bring proof such as an employee or student ID card or a letter from an employer. No proof of immigration status or social security number is required. Those under 18 must have a parent or guardian present when they take a jab.
Language access varies from site to site. At all vaccine hubs run by NYC Health + Hospitals or the city Health Department, staff will be able to call an interpreter service for anyone who they can’t directly assist. It might be helpful for people who don’t speak English to download and print this card asking for an interpreter or copy down a similar message to present upon arriving.
Getting an Appointment Online
Vax4NYC: Streamlined, easy-to-use website listing appointments at city-run vaccine hubs in the five boroughs. Usually, the second dose of the vaccine is scheduled automatically at the same site where you get the first dose. But in case something goes wrong, this website offers options for planning a second dose or rescheduling an appointment. Language Access: 11 languages.
TIP: If there are no appointments available initially or none near you, use the “Previous” and “Next” buttons on the website to refresh the page. Do not use the “refresh” button or “back” button at the top of your browser window. This will allow you to avoid having to enter your information over and over again.
AmIEligible: Appointments for all state-run vaccine sites, including those in the five boroughs (Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, Javits Center in Manhattan, York College and the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, and the Bay Eden Senior Center in the Bronx). Language Access: Seven languages.
Be Forewarned: The website’s first page indicates which vaccine sites currently have appointments, but after entering your information and clicking on one of those options, you may still be directed to a new page saying no appointments are available. Go back to the original page, click the “Update” button at the top, and try again.
Or, better yet, just call the state hotline (see below).
NYC Vaccine List: Shows what locations have appointments available and when. You still have to go to their respective websites to sign up.
TurboVax: This website was created to automatically show when new appointments are available, using a bot to trawl city- and state-run vaccine websites. It is paired with a Twitter account that frequently tweets out fresh batches of appointments and provides updates on the operation. According to Huge Ma, founder of TurboVax, there’s no particular time of day when all the new appointments show up, so you just have to keep checking back.
As of April 6th, the site’s functionality appears to be more limited than usual. An update said that, due to changes to the city and state websites, TurboVax’s bot can only access one day’s worth of appointments at Vax4NYC, and the NYS bot is currently offline.
NYC COVID-19 Vaccine Finder: This site is an aggregator that lists all the nearby vaccine hubs based on your zip code, including pharmacies, health care providers, and city- and state-run sites. When you click on one, you are directed to the appropriate website to find appointments. Language Access: 14 languages. The CDC Vaccine Finder serves a similar purpose.
GoodRx: Lists nearby pharmacies offering the vaccine, based on your zipcode. It will still direct you to the pharmacy website to sign up, however, which may have limited languages available.
Homebound? Use this online form to register yourself or a homebound New Yorker for an in-home vaccination (broad language access via Google translate). Everyone else in the household who’s eligible will also be able to get vaccinated.
Getting an Appointment By Phone
NYS Vaccine Hotline: 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829) – Hotline to schedule appointments at state-run vaccine sites, including those in the five boroughs. The person helping you on the hotline may be able to find appointments that do not show up on the state-run AmIEligible website. Language Access: English and Spanish.
TIP: Ignore the outdated automated message at the beginning that says only limited groups are eligible for the vaccine.
NYC Vaccine Hotline: 1-877-VAX-4NYC (1-877-829-4692) – Hotline to schedule appointments at vaccine sites across the city. Language Access: Six languages besides English.
TIP: You might get lucky, but brace yourself for a long wait on hold.
Showing Up in Person
Those who are fed up with refreshing websites and making phone calls may want to just show up to a vaccine site and try to get an appointment–or a shot on the spot. Vaccine sites generally discourage people from doing this (even pop-up sites make appointments ahead of time), but the city is starting to accommodate this instinct for those who are most vulnerable.
Walk-ins are now available for those 75 and older at more than two dozen hubs (see full list here), and anyone eligible who escorts someone 75+ to get their shot can get vaccinated, too. The city is also sending out a mobile vaccine bus to different neighborhoods that can dispense 150 to 200 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine per day.
Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens, both jointly run by the state and federal governments, explicitly allow people to sign up for an appointment onsite. Those hubs are only open to people who live in Brooklyn (Medgar Evers) and Queens (York College).
Standby Lists: Every vaccine site in the state is supposed to maintain a standby list of people who are eligible in case there are doses leftover at the end of the day (usually due to appointment cancellations) that have to be used quickly. Getting on a standby list generally involves calling and visiting different sites individually and asking about it. Staff might take your contact information if you live nearby and can show up on short notice, or they might tell you to show up near the end of the day. Each site is different.
Assistance Getting an Appointment
A lot of nonprofits, community groups and helpful neighbors have stepped up to assist people in getting appointments. If someone is unable to fill out a form online, it might make sense to call a local senior center or mutual aid group. Here are a couple of online access points for vaccine sign-up help:
Brydge Health – This group is streamlining the efforts of some of the volunteers who have stepped up to help people get vaccine appointments. Sign up for assistance. Sign-up to volunteer. Languages: English and Spanish.