Vaccine Hunting: My New Hobby

I’ve been called a Vaccine Pimp, Vaccine Hunter, Vaccine Angel, Vaccine Pusher and even Vaccine Harriet Tubman (by a Black friend). Whatever folks call me, one of my unexpected new-found hobbies has been finding and spreading the word about vaccine availability in Texas, specifically in outlying rural communities and at private pharmacies like Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, HEB and the like.

To date, I’ve had over 200 friends and family…and their friends and family…tell me that I’ve helped them to more easily secure appointments.

As Texas opens the floodgates for everyone who wants a shot, here’s some helpful advice (I hope!) on locating them, as well as a list of resources that I’ve relied on.

TIPS:

  • Sign Up Everywhere! Texas prohibits counties from placing residency restrictions on vaccines, so sign up with any county you’re willing to make a round trip to twice.
  • Focus on Private Pharmacies. Sign up for the public lists, but also make sure you’re looking at the private pharmacies, most of which allow you to book a specific appointment up to a week in advance.
  • Be Prepare To Drive. Driving as little as 30 minutes out of the metro areas may get you a shot in half the time. When you’re searching the appointment-setting websites, be sure to plug in the names of surrounding towns. The farther from a metro area, the greater your chances of success.
  • Check early & often! The online availability is ever-changing. I’ve had the most luck during the 6 a.m. hour, but I’ve also often checked at 10:30 a.m. or 2:43 p.m. only to find a bunch of new openings.
  • You Don’t Have To Get Pricked In The Same Place. If you find an appointment an hour away, you can get the first shot there and then continue to look for closer appointments for the second one. I have a dear friend who drove two hours each way for the first shot and then found an appointment one suburb over from her house for the second one. The only exception to this is if you get a shot through one of the public clinics. Many of those don’t allow a second shot if they didn’t give you the first one.

LINKS:

Vaccine Spotter: This website has been the most helpful to me, by far. It scans all of the private pharmacy websites for availability. Sometimes it’s a little wonky and sometimes the pharmacies block their access, so it’s not the end all, be all solution. Still a great place to start.

Walmart: Love ’em or hate ’em, Walmart rocks the Covid vaccination game. Their website is easy to use for booking available appointments. The only downside is that their geographic search is very limited. The hack is to type in the names of towns where you’re willing to drive. For Dallas folks, Red Oak, Corsicana, Mexia, Stephenville and Hillsboro tend to be most fruitful.

CVS: CVS’s online booking system is also fantastic. The first screen gives you a rundown of where they have availability. I’ve found it to usually be correct, but I’ve also found random appointments here and there, even when they say “Fully Booked.” (PS – if you’re willing to drive out to west Texas or Texarkana, they ALWAYS have openings.)

Walgreens: Walgreens only recently started vaccinating folks and their website is a little more confusing than CVS or Walmart’s, but it’s still a solid place to find open appointments.

HEB: If you live in an area with HEB stores, their booking system is easy to use…if you can grab a spot. They go super fast! What I like about HEB’s site is that they list available spots at the very top instead of making folks search for them.

UTSW: For Dallas-area folks, UTSW Hospital is running multiple locations throughout the city. The hardest part is gaining access to their MyChart system (which they only open for enrollment twice a week to a limited number of folks), but once you’re in, you can usually get an appointment same day if you want.

Navarro County Health Department: Not a private pharmacy, but still a great option. Just 45 minutes south of Dallas, Navarro County is doing a great job signing folks up and pushing out appointments. I gave it a test drive the other day and was given an appointment within a couple of days (which I obviously turned down).

Hope this helps!

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