Unfortunately, now that we are just over two weeks away from the entire state of California (over the age of 16) trying to get a COVID vaccine appointment, the various systems through which one is expected to get an appointment all remain buggy, flawed, and ill prepared for the onslaught.
Yes, perhaps it's better to have multiple corporations, counties, and healthcare providers all joining in on the vaccine effort — with the end goal of having as many shots in arms as possible, ASAP. But the resulting online maze of options and differing scheduling systems is rife with issues and ripe for confusion — and it's no wonder that many people 65+ couldn't figure this out on their own.
SFist has compiled some advice from friends who have been navigating the system, for all those who are just about to begin their vaccine journeys.
MyTurn.ca.gov, California's supposed statewide one-stop vaccine site, is plagued with bugs, doesn't actually represent all your options, and in the Bay Area you are not likely to see many available appointments appearing — and if they do, they may only be one or two days out. The Twitter account Bay Area Vaccine Bot, which launched as a way to alert people to new appointment availability on MyTurn, has taken to adding warnings to every tweet that say, "MyTurn is buggy! These may not be available!" whenever it announces new appointments. (They're encouraging people to send their feedback to the state about MyTurn via this SurveyMonkey survey.)
For instance, the East Oakland Health Center and West Oakland Health Center have been regularly popping up on MyTurn when one searches for San Francisco appointments — and yet for days neither site has had any available dates when one clicks through on the site — the calendar has no highlighted squares — leading to the question "Why do they keep popping up as having availability?"
Moscone Center appointments may be getting added daily in some specific time window that no one has quite figured out, but none have been easy to find for at least the past week — and eligible restaurant workers have been saying this for several weeks now. If appointments do appear, they are generally only a day or two out from when you are scheduling.
Technically, MyTurn requires anyone making an appointment to attest to their current eligibility — not whether they will be eligible when the appointment happens. So, even though you may be over 50 and the appointment occurs on or after April 1, you're not technically eligible to begin the scheduling process today.
Also, the "sign up for notifications" option is useless — you just have to keep refreshing your search on the regular.
UCSF's City College site has also not shown any appointment availability for at least a week.
Sutter Health, Dignity Health, and Kaiser patients should just go to their individual web portals and try for appointments there — like everywhere else, they tell you not to ask your own physician for help, because they likely can't help you with the scheduling. You can also look for an urgent-care clinic near you that may have doses, because some do.
If you've been lucky enough to get a first shot through a standby situation at a pharmacy or mass vaccination site, second appointments are not always pre-scheduled or guaranteed, which leads to a whole other set of problems. Some healthcare providers, like Sutter Health, are refusing to schedule second-dose appointments unless they administered the first dose. MyTurn has no "second dose" option, though some sites will specify that they're allowing these appointments. Safeway's appointment system only allows first doses to be scheduled, with no option for vaccine brand — and there's been little to no availability in the immediate vicinity of San Francisco.
CVS and Walgreens seem happy to schedule second doses, but each website has its own quirks with appointments. Both sites ask you to input the date of your first dose, and then apparently don't allow scheduling for second doses until a day or two before they are due — Walgreens specifically announces this, with an error message telling you it's too early to schedule, and CVS simply won't show any appointment availability unless you're trying for a first dose.
On the plus side, if you're willing to drive for a first shot, CVS's website appears to update in the early a.m. hours with availability by city across California, giving you some clues about where to search for an appointment before you start randomly entering zip codes. But these appointments are typically only one or two days out, so far.
The MyTurn system doesn't cover all the available options one might have, which in the coming weeks are likely to include more mobile clinics and drop-in sites, sponsored by counties themselves. Check your county's public health department website for other vaccine sites that will have their own registration and scheduling quirks. (The Chronicle has some of those details here.)
And if you live or work in Contra Costa County, you're in luck because they're ahead of the curve and began vaccinating people ages 16 and up starting on Tuesday (today). The Tice Gymnasium site in Walnut Creek is the mass-vaccination site likeliest to come up there on MyTurn, but the county said Tuesday it has 20,000 appointments immediately available that are not on MyTurn. Head to the county website to set up an appointment.
Best of luck, everyone! Maybe there will just be a ton of appointments and all the bugs will get worked out by April 15, but probably not! Just be vigilant and keep hitting refresh, a lot.