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The best tips from The Colorado Sun’s readers for booking a coronavirus vaccination appointment

The Colorado Sun asked readers to share the tricks, hacks and gambits that have worked for them to get a COVID-19 shot. Here’s what they told us.

Jhalak Chauhan, a Nepali refugee, receives a COVID-19 vaccine dose from volunteer nurse Lorin Pahlau during a vaccination clinic for residents of zip code 80010 and existing refugee patients at Ardas Family Medicine in The Mango House in Aurora on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Eli Imadali, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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If you are among the 1,909,317 people in Colorado who (as of Wednesday afternoon) have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, this story is not for you. It’s for the (approximately) 2,860,165 people age 16 and older in the state who are still on the hunt for their shot.

On Monday, we asked readers of our free newsletter The Sunriser to send in their best tips, their slickest moves, their savviest strategies for scoring a vaccination appointment. (Sign up here to get The Sunriser if you don’t already receive it.)

And now we present you, vaccine FOMO-havers, with this precious wisdom.

Put your eggs in multiple baskets

Signing up with just one provider is perfectly fine. You will get an appointment eventually. But if you want to speed things up a bit, while still mostly letting others do the work, sign up in multiple places.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has an exhaustive list of all the vaccine providers in the state, organized by county, along with links to their website and, in most cases, notes on which vaccine the providers are offering.

Click here to scroll through and find options near you.

Take charge

Lots of hospitals, health departments and other vaccine providers have created sign-up waitlists. And these do work. We hear all the time from people who signed up on one and then received an email telling them it’s time to book that appointment.

If you’re tired of waiting, though, the better strategy according to readers is to take matters into your own hands. In addition to their waitlists, most hospital systems also have online patient portals where you can register for an account and then hunt for open appointments — often using a feature of the portal that allows you to schedule a hospital visit.

You don’t have to have previously been a patient at the hospital. And, since the coronavirus vaccine is free, you don’t have to worry about whether that hospital takes your insurance. (They may still ask for your insurance information, but you won’t be turned away if you don’t have any or if the hospital is normally not in your network.)

Some folks on The Sun’s staff used this to book vaccine appointments using SCL Health’s MyChart portal. It’s especially helpful if you are particular about where you get your vaccine — if you really want to get it at a hospital, for instance, or if you want to stick close to home.

We also heard from a reader who said he was able to schedule an appointment at a hospital through his health insurance carrier’s website.

Moderna Covid-19 vaccine vials sit on top of a sign during a vaccination clinic for residents of zip code 80010 and existing refugee patients at Ardas Family Medicine in The Mango House in Aurora, Colorado on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Eli Imadali, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Work the websites

If you are less particular about where you get vaccinated or whether you have to drive a bit, it’s time to dive into the web.

There are several websites that hunt for appointment availability across multiple providers and then post those open slots in one place. You will still need to click through and sign up for the appointment with the provider. But these can be great launching pads for figuring out what’s available and where.

  • VaccineSpotter.org — The most commonly recommended method by Colorado Sun readers for finding a vaccine appointment. This website posts appointments for several large pharmacy chains — Safeway, King Soopers, CVS, Walmart and others — as well as appointments at mass vaccination clinics and local public health events. And it updates when new information comes in, which means refreshing the page often leads to new appointments showing up.
  • @COVaxAlerts — This is VaccineSpotter, but in Twitter form, delivering the same information as the website. If you are a Twitter user and want a real bat-signal-like experience, follow the account and then hit the 🔔 button to receive each new tweet as an alert on your phone. Be forewarned, though, the account tweets dozens of times per hour.
  • COMassVax.org — This site, which operates in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is great at finding mass vaccination and community clinics. It also allows you to search by the kind of vaccine you want. This is important if you are under 18 and can only get the Pfizer vaccine or if you are looking for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which on the site is called the Janssen vaccine for the J&J subsidiary that makes it. You can also search by vaccine brand on VaccineSpotter.
  • VaccineFinder.org — A national search for vaccine providers. This doesn’t show available appointments, but it could be useful to double-check that you’ve found every place in your area with vaccine to administer.

Hit the ’book

The scramble of the vaccination campaign has brought out some of the best of social media. To wit: The Colorado Vaccine Hunters group on Facebook, probably the second-most recommended tip from Sun readers.

The group has its own, thorough list of suggestions for shot-hunting. And it also has a ton of people eager to answer questions about different providers and sign-up procedures. Dive into the posts to look for tricks you haven’t tried yet.

We also heard from readers who found appointments through neighborhood or community Facebook groups, so your (virtual) friends can be real assets right now.

If you are over 50 or trying to make an appointment for someone over 50, a volunteer group calling itself Vaccine Helpers is willing to help you out and look for an appointment for you. Fill out this form to get started.

Lincoln Community Hospital registered nurse Deanne Kahler of Hugo draws a Moderna covid-19 vaccine dose during a vaccination clinic at the hospital in Hugo on Wednesday, Feb. 24 2021. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Think like a hacker

OK, we didn’t entirely fact-check this one. But multiple Sun readers told us it worked for them.

If you’re searching online for appointments with national providers such as Walmart, Safeway, Walgreens and the like, try changing the time zone on your computer or phone — whatever you’re doing the search on. You can do this by going into your settings or systems menu. Switch it to Eastern time.

According to the readers, lots of these providers appear to post new appointments around midnight. Changing to an earlier time zone might — we say might — fool the websites into letting you get a crack at those appointments two hours earlier.

And, if the time zone thing ends up being bunk, it’s still a good reminder that appointments may come online when you aren’t. So log on every now and then at weird hours — which is another way of thinking like a hacker.

Don’t get discouraged

If you’ve tried all these things and still can’t get an appointment, we’ve heard from lots of people like you, too. Don’t get down on yourself. It’s not you; it’s the system.

Stay at it. Remind yourself that the pandemic isn’t over, but that getting a vaccine is the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you. Think of glorious, not-quite-but-hopefully-close-enough summer days ahead. Hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses are coming to Colorado every week, and, eventually, it will be your turn.

And to all our readers, thank you for sending in tips and helping out your fellow Coloradans. It takes a community to build immunity.

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