How to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
By Sarah Larson
For a world desperate to return to some semblance of normality, the development in record time of a vaccine to fight the coronavirus pandemic was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
But the rollout of the effort to get the vaccine from its pharmaceutical creators into the arms of 330 million Americans has proceeded anything but smoothly. Managed for months individually, on a state-by-state basis, efforts to combat the pandemic now are coming under more holistic management, and new efforts announced early in 2021 set ambitious goals for vaccination nationwide.
However, news announced on Tuesday, March 2, offered two spots of hope. First, President Joe Biden announced that pharma giant Merck will help produce the newly approved COVID vaccine created by its rival Johnson & Johnson. That vaccine requires only one shot, unlike the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, which require two doses.
“The fight against COVID-19 is a war-time effort – and to win, we need breakthrough approaches,” the president said. “Today I’m announcing we’re bringing together Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and the full power of the federal government to ramp up vaccine production and defeat this virus.”
The increased production capacity and the quickening pace of vaccine delivery to the states are expected to boost the nationwide distribution of the vaccine. Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. expects to have enough COVID-19 vaccine for all adults by the end of May, the Associated Press reported, two months earlier than anticipated.
Yet for now, finding an appointment to get the vaccine can feel a lot like playing the lottery or trying to secure Hamilton tickets or book dining spots at Disney World.
With the news changing daily on how much vaccine is available and where to get it, new websites have launched to try to help people find the vaccine. Here are some of the ones we’ve found most useful.
Plan Your Vaccine: This portal website aims to share “Everything you need to know about getting a Covid-19 vaccination as the rollout extends across the U.S.” Organized by NBC News, the website offers users a state drop-down menu, and a list of essential occupations and an age group to choose from, to help users determine their eligibility. It also links to Pennsylvania’s portal, Your Turn, which helps state residents determine if they are eligible.
How to Get a Covid-19 Vaccine: a State-by-State Guide: Offered by The Wall Street Journal, this website also pulls together information from a variety of official sources for each state across the country. It notes that the situation in each state is different, with some allowing residents to preregister and others coordinating vaccine distribution through employers or local health departments. It also links to the states’ official vaccine websites, including:
VaccineFinder.org: Operated by epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital, this free online service enables users to search for clinics, pharmacies, and health departments that provide vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Its zip code search tool allows users to search for – or eliminate from consideration – vaccine manufacturer by a specific company. So, for example, users can search for the Moderna COVID vaccine and not Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID vaccine, and vice versa.
Track the Vax is a podcast exploring various aspects of COVID-19 vaccines, including deep dives into current scientific discussions. A recent episode focused on whether the existing vaccines can protect against new COVID strains, and another featured an interview with Dr. Rick Nettles, vice president of medical affairs at Johnson &Johnson’s Janssen division, on the company’s recently approved one-dose vaccine. The podcast is presented in collaboration with MedPage Today and Everyday Health.
For Pennsylvania residents who use Facebook, PA COVID Vaccine Match Maker is a Facebook group where people share links and updated information on new batches of vaccination appointments they find each day. With 40,000 members, the group’s posts are updated continuously throughout the day and night – many vaccine-hunters have reported better success in securing appointments shortly after midnight, when some pharmacies, including Rite Aid, seem to be releasing new appointment slots.
Note that even the best of these websites – and some of them are, frankly, not the best – are prone to crashing and glitching and are being subjected to heavy traffic. For the next few weeks, at least, it seems that searching for a COVID vaccination is likely to remain challenging and time-consuming.