Nick Muerdter is hopeful the day will soon come when people no longer need to use the website he created, vaccinespotter.com, to help get inoculated.
“As soon as there are enough vaccine appointments available, a website like this won’t really matter anymore,” says Muerdter, who made the site in his spare time while also working as a software engineer for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. “At no point, though, have they been easy to come by, especially in the urban areas.”
Now that every Coloradan age 16 and up will officially be eligible to get a vaccine beginning this Friday, April 2, the mad dash to get stuck with a needle is likely to continue for at least the next few weeks.
Colorado National Guard Brigadier General Scott Sherman, who is heading up the vaccination effort, said the state is currently receiving 422,000 doses a week from the federal government and that number is expected to increase by tens of thousands in the coming weeks. He and Governor Jared Polis believe that level of supply should allow anyone who wants to get a vaccine to be able to do so by the end of May.
At the same time, allowing all adults to get vaccines means that millions more people will be looking for appointments. “I’ve definitely seen traffic to my website really pick up in states that have opened eligibility to all groups, including Colorado,” Muerdter says.
To help with your efforts to get yourself or someone you love jabbed in the arm, we rounded up some of the best resources for finding a vaccine appointment. We also spoke with the creators of some of those websites and alert systems about their best advice on inoculation hunting. (Spoiler alert: The all said patience is key.)
Resources for Finding Vaccines
Vaccine Spotter: Muerdter’s website, vaccinespotter.org, uses bots he created to pull appointment data from various pharmacy databases—Walgreens, King Soopers, etc.—and put all the available time slots for specific locations in one place. When Muerdter first launched the site in February, it just gathered appointments for Colorado, but he has expanded it to include all 50 states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. He has tried to include some other vaccine clinics, including ones run by Centura Health here in Colorado, but for the most part it only includes pharmacy information.
The State’s COVID-19 Resource Page: While it doesn’t have the ability to make you immediately aware of where available appointments are like Vaccine Spotter, the state’s resource page is still the most exhaustive list of providers, clinics, and other groups that are offering vaccines.
Vaccine Hunters: Boulderite Doug Ward started vaccinehunters.org after struggling to find an appointment for his mother in the early stages of distribution. The site’s mission is to connect people with group’s that provide tips, tricks, and other information about where inoculations might be available in their community. In Colorado’s case, that is the Colorado Vaccine Hunters Facebook page, which currently has more than 20,000 members. Once you are admitted to the group, Ward recommends using the search tool to see if people are talking about how they’ve managed to get appointments in the area where you live. “If you don’t find any good information that way, there are a bunch of general threads where you can ask questions,” he says. “Usually, there are five to 10 people ready to jump in and help you find an appointment.”
@COVaxAlert: This Twitter thread takes information from Vaccine Spotter and sends out alerts when new time slots have become available. The posts are for every part of Colorado, so if you set yourself up to receive notifications, be ready for your phone to buzz a lot.
Dr. B: At hidrb.com, you can sign up for vaccine standby lists in your area. If someone cancels an appointment or there are extra doses at one of the local providers that has set up a relationship with the service, you’ll then get a text message about that availability. Currently, there are only a small number of local groups using the service.
Vaccine Fairy: This nationwide service helps people that are struggling to book appointments, including folks that are not tech savvy. If you need assistance, you can submit a request at vaccinefairy.org. The group is also looking for volunteers who want to spend time looking for time slots for those in need.
Advice for Finding Vaccines
“It’s all a bit chaotic,” Muerdter says. “So I feel like the best advice is just to be patient. Some people get lucky and find [an appointment] in 10 minutes, others don’t.”
Be Willing to Travel Beyond Your Immediate Area
“Being able to widen the search has really been helping a lot of people,” Ward says. “Vaccines are not really distributed toward population. It seems more spread out across the state. If you have the ability to travel with confidence, especially to more rural areas, it may improve your chances.” If you do travel, many health officials are encouraging people to make sure they receive both doses in the same place.
Sign up With Your Local Clinic or Health Care Provider
Appointments might not be available right away, but you’ll want to be one of the first calls if someone cancels or there is somehow excess vaccine.