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I never intended to become an expert in how to get a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in NY, but here we are. And while it’s not 100% miles and points related, more vaccinated people gets us that much closer to reopened borders, so… why not share what I’ve learned?
In this article
How Can You Actually Get the COVID-19 Vaccine in NY State and NYC?
New Yorkers, like those in probably every state, are having a heck of a time getting a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. And I’ll be honest, you need to be determined. You’ll have to work for it. My advice will help the determined among you get an appointment. But it will take effort.
Currently Eligible Groups in New York State / NYC
Currently Eligible New Yorkers (as of Feb 2021) are:
- Individuals Age 65 and older who reside in New York
- First Responder or Support Staff for First Responder Agency
- State Fire Service, including firefighters and investigators (professional and volunteer)
- Local Fire Service, including firefighters and investigators (professional and volunteer)
- Police and Investigations
- State Police, including Troopers
- State Park Police, DEC Police, Forest Rangers
- SUNY Police
- Sheriffs’ Offices
- County Police Departments and Police Districts
- City, Town, and Village Police Departments
- Transit of other Public Authority Police Departments
- State Field Investigations, including DMV, SCOC, Justice Center, DFS, IG, Tax, OCFS, SLA
- Public Safety Communications
- Emergency Communication and PSAP Personnel, including dispatchers and technicians
- Other Sworn and Civilian Personnel
- Court Officer
- Other Police or Peace Officer
- Support or Civilian Staff for Any of the Above Services, Agencies, or Facilities
- State DOCCS Personnel, including correction and parole officers
- Local Correctional Facilities, including correction officers
- Local Probation Departments, including probation officers
- State Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Facilities
- Local Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Facilities
- P-12 Schools
- P-12 school (public or non-public) or school district faculty or staff (includes all teachers, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, and support staff including bus drivers)
- Contractor working in a P-12 school or school district (including contracted bus drivers)
- Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group childcare
- In-person college faculty and instructors
- Employees or Support Staff of licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group Childcare Setting
- Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group Childcare Provider
- Public Transit
- Airline and airport employee
- Passenger railroad employee
- Subway and mass transit employee (i.e., MTA, LIRR, Metro North, NYC Transit, Upstate transit)
- Ferry employee
- Port Authority employee
- Public bus employee
- Public facing grocery store workers, including convenience store and bodega workers
- Individual living in a homeless shelter where sleeping, bathing or eating accommodations must be shared with individuals and families who are not part of your household
- Individual working (paid or unpaid) in a homeless shelter where sleeping, bathing or eating accommodations must be shared by individuals and families who are not part of the same household, in a position where there is potential for interaction with shelter residents
- High-risk hospital and FQHC staff, including OMH psychiatric centers
- Health care or other high-risk essential staff who come into contact with residents/patients working in LTCFs and long-term, congregate settings overseen by OPWDD, OMH, OCFS, OTDA and OASAS, and residents in congregate living situations, overseen or funded by the OPWDD, OMH, OCFS, OTDA and OASAS
- Certified NYS EMS provider, including but not limited to Certified First Responder, Emergency Medical Technician, Advanced Emergency Medical Technician, Emergency Medical Technician – Critical Care, Paramedic, Ambulance Emergency Vehicle Operator, or Non-Certified Ambulance Assistant
- County Coroner or Medical Examiner, or employer or contractor thereof who is exposed to infectious material or bodily fluids
- Licensed funeral director, or owner, operator, employee, or contractor of a funeral firm licensed and registered in New York State, who is exposed to infectious material or bodily fluids
- Staff of urgent care provider
- Staff who administer COVID-19 vaccine
- All Outpatient/Ambulatory front-line, high-risk health care workers of any age who provide direct in-person patient care, or other staff in a position in which they have direct contact with patients (i.e., intake staff)
- All front-line, high-risk public health workers who have direct contact with patients, including those conducting COVID-19 tests, handling COVID-19 specimens and COVID-19 vaccinations
- Home care workers and aides, hospice workers, personal care aides, and consumer-directed personal care workers
- Staff and residents of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and adult care facilities
- Restaurant workers*
- Restaurant delivery drivers*
- For-hire vehicle drivers*
*Eligible for vaccination at State-operated mass vaccination sites, and, at the option of local health departments (LHDs) at LHD-operated point of distribution sites.
Those with Eligible High Risk Conditions are also now eligible
- Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Pulmonary Disease, including but not limited to, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11 related pulmonary diseases
- Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities including Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes
- Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2), Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Neurologic conditions including but not limited to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia
- Liver disease
Proof of Eligibility
You will need to show proof of eligibility when you arrive. If your work makes you eligible, have an employee ID card with you.
If you have a high risk condition, you can show either a letter from your doctor or, much more simply, proof from your online health portal. These days, all major providers use a portal that you can login to and they log your health conditions there. A screen shot of your qualifying condition should do the trick, and New York State is able to corroborate with your provider. (My understanding is that simply holding the proof with you or on your phone will be sufficient.)
Appointments ARE Required
In the first few days of NY vaccinations, there were reports of people showing up end of day hoping for extras that worked for less than a week and is now completely off the table. You need an appointment.
No appointment = No jab.
Where is the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine Being Given in New York?
There are a few primary mechanisms in place for vaccine distribution in New York. Different locations are for different eligible groups. For instance, pharmacies are currently only for those age 65+, regardless of other qualifying criteria.
- State run vaccination sites
- NYC run vaccination sites
- Pharmacies (major chains + local)
- Hospital providers
- Urgent care facilities
Let’s take a look at which facilities cater to different groups of eligible New Yorkers (as of February 20, 2021)
New York State Department of Health Run COVID-19 Vaccination Sites (Best for under age 65 with qualifying conditions)
If you are under age 65, a state run facility is going to be your best option, along with some NYC run sites if you live in NYC.
The current NYS locations are:
- Aqueduct Racetrack – Racing Hall, 110-00 Rockaway Blvd, South Ozone Park, NY 11420
- Dome Arena (DBA Roxbury Dome Partners LLC), 2695 East Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY 14467
- Javits Center, 429 11th Avenue, New York, NY 10018
- Jones Beach – Field 3, 1 Ocean Pkwy, Wantagh, NY 11793
- Plattsburgh International Airport – Connecticut Building, 213 Connecticut Rd, Plattsburgh, NY 12903
- State Fair Expo Center: NYS Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Blvd Syracuse, NY 13209
- SUNY Albany, 1400 Washington Ave Albany NY 12222
- SUNY Binghamton, 10 Gannett Drive, Johnson City, NY 13790
- SUNY at Buffalo South Campus – Harriman Hall, 3435 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14214
- SUNY Polytechnic Institue – Wildcat Field House, 880 Wildcat Drive, Utica, NY, 13502
- SUNY Potsdam Field House, 44 Pierrepont Ave, Potsdam, NY 13676
- SUNY Stony Brook, 100 Nichols Rd, Stony Brook, NY 11794
- Westchester County Center, 198 Central Avenue, White Plains, NY 10606
- Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, NY
If you live in New York State, you can go to ANY of these locations. So if you are physically able, you might consider taking a 4 hour drive to a location that can provide you the jab, or at least make an appointment at one while you try to get something closer / sooner. You can have more than one appointment for a brief time, so make the second one and cancel the first. If you don’t, NYS will ask you to cancel one and then cancel for you if you don’t. Be nice and cancel them yourself so someone else can take it.
If you live in Manhattan, the Javits center is the best option. It’s well run, although parking around there won’t be easy if you are driving. If at all possible, walk or take a car service. In the four times I’ve driven family members to Javits, I’ve yet to figure out where people are meant to park. There are signs stating short term parking but they don’t correspond to any actual lots and you’ll be towed if you park along the Javits perimeter. I know it makes no sense but hey, this is New York City – we don’t do things here in ways that ever make things easier on anyone 😉
Of course, Javits appointments are in very high demand. They become available as they get more doses on order or when people cancel because they got something sooner.
The SUNY Potsdam Field House consistently has the most available appointments. So if you have the means to get to Potsdam (which is, yes, a 6 hour drive from NYC so it’s probably not a great option for downstaters), you might consider it.
That out of the way, there are two methods for getting an appointment at a NY State run vaccination site:
- The website: Go to https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov and confirm eligibility. You can then search site by site. Note that it often says “Appointments available” only to click in and find no appointments available. That’s the norm; not the exception. They also added a “Waiting Room” that you might find at peak times, which makes you wait an hour to enter the website, with the highest probability of ending that effort with “No appointments available.” It may even drop you out of the waiting area for no reason in the middle of your wait. So while I used to advise people to keep trying this website, it’s become less and less efficient.
- Call 1–833–NYS-4-VAX. This is what I currently advise people to do. Call weekdays at 7am on the dot. Try to find a really polite and chatty agent who you can coax into refreshing a few times. If no luck, call back. Keep trying. If someone will only check once, thank them, hang up, and call again. The first reason to call at 7am is that it is when they open and phone waits are close to zero. They go up from there and can be over an hour. The second reason is that you are getting two possibilities: a new batch of vaccines being loaded in + any cancellations.
Oddly, when you call and the agent has multiple time slots open, they seem to appear on their screen from latest to soonest. So they may say “I have April 12th?” and then you say do you have anything sooner and then they might say “I have February 28th.” Or they may not… but it’s good to know.
If you are not over 65+ and don’t live in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx or Staten Island, this is currently your very best way to get vaccinated.
A note if you live in Brooklyn
FEMA comes to Brooklyn as of Feb 24, 2021: Qualifying ZIP codes in Brooklyn can schedule an appointment to get vaccinated at a new mass vaccination site at Medgar Evers College. The site is initially reserved for eligible Brooklyn residents who live in the following ZIP codes: 11207, 11212, 11208, 11206, 11233, 11213, 11221, 11226, 11236, 11216, 11225, 11210, 11203, 11238. After a week, it will open to all Brooklyn residents. The Medgar Evers College vaccination site, located at the Medgar Evers College Carroll Building, 231 Crown St., Brooklyn, NY 11225, will be open to those with appointments beginning February 24 and will be able to handle 3,000 appointments a day, 7 days a week.
These appointments are made via the NYS methods above; website or phone.
New York State operated sites are giving the Pfizer vaccine.
New York City (NYC) Run COVID-19 Vaccination Sites (Best for those in outer boroughs)
The best way to find out the locations and availability for these sites operated by the NYC Department of Health is TurboVax, the free site created by a local programmer that recognized local website tech stinks.
This website will show availability at sites like Citi Field in Queens, which is only vaccinating Queens residents along with taxi drivers and food service workers. Various outer borough sites exist only for the local community and TurboVax is the best way to search.
This site also includes Health + Hospital sites (including in Manhattan) which do occasionally show new availability.
You can also follow TurboVax on Twitter.
Additionally, you can try https://nycvaccinelist.com for a variety of obscure locations in the five boroughs with appointments, mostly for local / underserved areas. (HT to /u/cscpru on Reddit for flagging this resource).
New York State Pharmacies (Over 65+ only)
Pharmacies all over New York State now offer the Moderna vaccine by appointment. Local, non-chain pharmacies all have their own systems for waiting lists, so you’ll have to call them and see.
Major chains are the easier way to go as far as finding appointments online.
CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens are all servicing the 65 and over crowd. We had heard they’d add high risk soon, but they haven’t yet. Even if you make an appointment successfully, they will cancel it if you are not 65+.
Only Walgreens has appointments in New York City, but the good news is that it’s super easy, with perseverance, to get an appointment at Walgreens. Because Walgreens has, by far, the most availability, I’ll focus on how to “win” with Walgreens.
First, login to your Walgreens account. Website or app is equally fine.
Once logged in, click on COVID-19 vaccine information.
Then click “Find appointments”.
Then scroll down to Get Started and click that button.
Here’s where it gets fun. You have to be let into the scheduler twice for some reason.
On this first screen, type your zip code. If you get the green Appointments Available, you can continue. But if you get the red “unavailable” you need to get creative. Type in other NY zip codes and areas until you get the green. Don’t worry, this is completely unrelated to your actual search. You just need access.
Once you are in, click See if You’re Eligible
As of right now, only 65+ is eligible in NY at Walgreens and any other answer will disqualify you. Don’t even think about working around this if you are under 65+ because you will be cancelled anyway.
Once you confirm you are 65+, you’ll answer the screening questionnaire and click Next.
Then click Schedule Vaccination.
Next, scroll down and select First and Second dose and then Schedule Now. This is the “fun” part.
In all likelihood, you’ll enter your zip code and get this:
But thankfully, Walgreen’s system is robust and easy to refresh without breaking it.
See that magnifying glass icon? That’s the search’s “enter” button. Clicking it will refresh the search.
And here’s the magic: It searches within 25 miles. If you click it enough, you are bound to catch a cancellation. It may not be right where you want it, but then again, it may be. You’ll schedule the first and second dose together (and even if your first dose isn’t nearby, your second dose is much easier to choose the location nearest you.) If you have no luck, you can try another town for a new 25 mile search radius.
The other “trick” is that they load new appointments a bit after midnight when they have new doses. They only schedule for within the next 3 days. I had luck once at 12:15am and once at 12:20am with massive new inventory dumps. Once, at 12:20am, I saw 56 appointments become available at the nearest Walgreens.
So, if you are over 65 and tech savvy or have a parent 65+ that you are trying to schedule for, this is the pot of gold for your vaccination effort. Really.
Right now, hospitals are only vaccinating healthcare workers and 65+ even if you are a high risk patient. They have said high risk will be eligible very soon, but I don’t know when. They are going to make you schedule via the patient portal and the system needs to recognize you as eligible. This is only going to work for a very, very small subset of people right now.
Urgent Care Locations
Forget it. It’s impossible to check any of them efficiently and they have very few allocated doses. At present, this won’t be worth your time.
When will a COVID-19 vaccine likely be available to all New Yorkers?
Your guess is as good as anyone’s, but it appears that sometime between April and June, anyone that wants the jab should be able to get one.
Once I’m vaccinated against COVID-19, do I still have to wear a mask?
For now, yes. It’s still required that you wear a mask by the local government even once you get the vaccine, for one thing. And besides that we still aren’t sure if you can still get COVID-19, be spared the symptoms, but transmit it to others. I won’t go on beyond that as this isn’t a health website, but also keep in mind that you aren’t “fully vaccinated” until 3 weeks after your second dose. Thankfully, even just a few weeks after your first dose, you’ll have very solid protection.
Pfizer Vaccine vs. Moderna Vaccine in New York
From what I’ve noticed, New York State gives the Pfizer vaccine while hospitals and pharmacies have Moderna. Efficacy is roughly equal so don’t worry which you’ll get, however the Moderna vaccine seems to be known to have more side effects, so you may experience that a bit more with Moderna, especially with the second dose.
Does the COVID Vaccine Hurt? Are there Side Effects?
While you may have some light side effects like fever, chills, tiredness, and headache (more common after the second dose than the first), the shot really doesn’t hurt at all. It’s just the tiniest pinch and that’s all you’ll feel during the vaccination, although your arm may be sore for a day or two.
Things change fast. This is accurate as of late February. WHen I see significant changes, I’ll update this post. But also, if you have any tips or tricks I didn’t find myself, please let me know below in the comments! My only goal here is to help those having difficulty securing a vaccination appointment have a bit more help on where to focus their attention and maximize odds.
And if this post helped you, please consider sharing it!
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