Since March of 2020, The River has been covering COVID-19 across the Hudson Valley and Catskills region. Our coronavirus news roundups have kept track of the fast-changing landscape of the pandemic, from sweeping statewide policy developments to news from our region’s smallest towns.
Now we’re announcing something new: We’re partnering with the healthcare journalism experts at ClearHealthCosts, a company based in Westchester County, to put practical tools for navigating pandemic health care in readers’ hands. Our first joint effort is a guide to getting a COVID-19 vaccine locally.
Buckle up: There’s a lot of information coming. We have official guidelines from New York State and local governments, and also some insider tips on navigating the process, collected from personal experience, social media, and our reporting. At the top of this guide, you’ll find a map to all of the vaccine sites we know of in the Hudson Valley and Catskills region, with contact information and links to their websites.
Vaccine information changes all the time. New sites are popping up weekly. New groups of people are becoming eligible. The state’s rules for who can get vaccinated where might change without warning. We’re keeping this guide updated—and if you see something here that’s out of date, please let us know so we can keep it current.
Latest updates, April 26:
- As of April 24, New York State and many local vaccine providers have begun giving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine again. The vaccine had been on hold in New York and nationwide since April 13, when the FDA and CDC recommended pausing the rollout of the vaccine so federal regulators could take a closer look into the cases of six women (out of nearly 7 million vaccine recipients) who developed an extremely rare blood clotting disorder after receiving the vaccine.
- Starting April 23, New York State is reserving vaccine doses for walk-ins age 60 and older at 16 state-run sites.
- Several of the state-run vaccination sites that were residency-restricted when they opened are now open to all.
- The Albany state-run mass vaccination site moved from SUNY Albany to the Crossgates Mall on Friday, April 16.
- As of April 6, any vaccine provider in New York State can vaccinate any eligible recipient.
- Walmart’s online scheduling tool is now available for vaccine appointments at Walmart and Sam’s Club locations in New York State.
- Everyone age 30 and up is eligible for vaccination in New York State as of Tuesday, March 30. Those 16 and up are eligible as of Tuesday, April 6.
Navigate the Guide
Click on any of the links below to jump to that section:
Who is eligible?
• Healthcare workers and people in nursing homes
• Essential workers
• People with medical conditions
Where can I get vaccinated?
• State sites
• County sites
• Health centers
• Hospitals and doctor’s offices
• Veterans Affairs
Why should I get vaccinated?
Public health experts use the phrase “vaccine hesitancy” as a catch-all term for talking about why people are reluctant to be vaccinated, but there are many different reasons why people might hold off, besides worry about vaccines overall. People may think that if they have already been infected, they don’t need to get vaccinated, or that younger people with a lower risk of death don’t need the vaccine.
We feel confident that almost everyone who has the chance to be vaccinated should do so, as soon as they are eligible. Here are some reasons why:
- The risks of catching COVID-19 are far greater than the risks of being vaccinated, even for the young and healthy. A tiny fraction of people—between two and five per million, or less than 0.001 percent, according to CDC data—may have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. Such a reaction typically occurs within half an hour of getting the shot, and can be treated by healthcare providers at the vaccination site. Some people have experienced fatigue, fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms for a day or so after receiving the vaccine, and in some cases spent the day in bed. Compare that with the number of people who are still suffering long after having contracted COVID-19: In one study, a third of people who were infected but not hospitalized still had symptoms more than a month later.
- The COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, but not by cutting corners. Manufacturers were able to speed up the process of research and development with large investments of funding, and clinical trials moved fast—in part, because infection rates in the places where trials were underway were so high that researchers could gather a lot of data quickly.
- Immunity from COVID-19 vaccines might last longer than immunity from having been infected.
- Evidence is growing that getting a vaccine protects not just you, but people around you also.
- Vaccination in your community helps prevent the rise of more dangerous new variants, and lowers the burden on your local hospitals.
- People who have been fully vaccinated can safely visit indoors with other vaccinated people, or with households of unvaccinated low-risk people, according to CDC guidance released on March 8.
There are some rare situations, such as known allergies or autoimmune conditions, in which people should consult a doctor before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. But for most people, even during pregnancy or after having already recovered from COVID-19, vaccination is safer than risking infection.
New state legislation went into effect on March 12 that guarantees all public and private employees in the state up to four hours of excused leave per injection so they can be vaccinated.
Why has it been so confusing?
The rollout of vaccines has been chaotic and unpredictable. There is no single source of information from New York State on where to get vaccinated. Every vaccine provider has its own system for signing up, and some require a complicated online registration process. Short supply means that as soon as appointments become available in any system, they quickly disappear. People all over our region are complaining that they have tried many times to schedule an appointment, to no avail.
The vaccine situation varies greatly across The River’s coverage area. In the lower Hudson Valley, people have the advantage of relatively close access to New York City sites, as well as state-run mass vaccination sites in Westchester and Long Island. In the upper Hudson Valley and the Catskills, distribution is more limited, with a patchwork of pharmacy sites and county-run points of distribution (PODs) that may be limited to those who live or work in the county.
In the first few months of rollout, New York State officials required different vaccine providers to focus on different groups, which has added to the confusion. As of April 6, all vaccine providers, including local health departments and hospitals, may vaccinate anyone who is eligible.
Who is eligible?
Everyone in New York State who is 16 or older is eligible for the vaccine as of Tuesday, April 6.
Children and adolescents under the age of 16 will become eligible after the vaccine manufacturers complete their clinical trials for children. If the safety data looks good, vaccine authorization will be extended to younger people for each of the vaccines. It’s a process that is likely to happen in several stages, with vaccines authorized for older children first.
Healthcare workers and people in nursing homes
The first group of people to be vaccinated, in New York State and most places around the country, were those on the front lines of the pandemic: Healthcare workers and the residents and staff of nursing homes.
This group includes healthcare workers outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices, such as home care and hospice workers, as well as EMS providers, coroners, and staff at funeral homes.
A full list of those eligible can be found on the state’s website.
In January, the state moved to make other frontline essential workers eligible: First responders, teachers, grocery and childcare workers, and people with various other occupations that put them at risk. New York State’s list of eligible occupations is long. Find it here.
Restaurant workers and taxi and delivery drivers were added to the state’s eligibility list on February 2, and hotel workers on March 1, but there’s a catch: Local health departments can decide whether or not to make them eligible. That means they can be vaccinated at state-run sites, but need to check with counties to find out if they are eligible at any site run by a county health department.
Emergency food workers and volunteers from nonprofit pantries and meal delivery services are eligible under New York State rules, as of March 1.
On March 2, President Joe Biden announced that the federal pharmacy program would move immediately to prioritize teachers, daycare workers, and school staff, in an effort to get those groups vaccinated by the end of March. Pharmacies can now vaccinate those workers, in addition to people 30 and up and those eligible because of medical conditions.
Starting March 17, the state’s list of eligible essential workers expands to include public-facing government workers, nonprofit workers, and essential building service workers.
Some people are able to qualify for a vaccine by signing up to work at a vaccine site. Not all workers are eligible, but some apparently are. In New York, the state Department of Health’s employment site is currently calling for workers in both clinical and support roles to help staff state-run vaccination sites.
People with medical conditions
On February 15, people with pre-existing conditions (sometimes called comorbidities) became eligible. These conditions include hypertension, diabetes, cancer, obesity, kidney disease, liver disease, and many others. State officials might expand the list at any time. Find it on New York State’s website here. The current list:
- Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Pulmonary disease, including but not limited to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, moderate to severe asthma, 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, and hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Immunocompromised state, 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
- Obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m² or higher)
- Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Neurologic conditions, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- Liver disease
The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be given only to people 18 and older, while Pfizer can be given only to people 16 and older. These are the age groups that were included in the manufacture and trial processes for these two vaccines, and the rules are being strictly observed.
A road map of the staged rollout of New York State’s vaccine effort can be found here.
Here are New York State’s instructions to vaccine providers as of April 6, which include guidance for how to deal with any extra vaccine at the end of the day when all scheduled appointments have been completed.
The Westchester Institute for Human Development in Valhalla is authorized to give the vaccine to individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD). They have received Moderna (so far), so only age 18 and up can be vaccinated. People who are 16 or 17 years old may sign up anyway, in case the institute gets a different vaccine. The signup form is here. They have done a first round, and the form is collecting names for a new round of vaccines for people with IDD when the state sends supplies. If the state restrictions allow them to, they may eventually be able to administer to non-IDD people. So signing up even if you are not a person with IDD is also an option.
Where can I get vaccinated?
The network of vaccination sites in New York includes sites run by state and county governments, pharmacies, hospitals, and health centers. Anyone who is eligible in New York State can be vaccinated at a state-run site. Other providers may have limitations on who they can vaccinate. Starting March 17, the state will allow all providers except pharmacies to vaccinate anyone who is eligible.
Another resource for finding a vaccine site is the CDC’s “Vaccine Finder” website, which has information on providers that are registered with the federal pharmacy program. STAT took a look at the project.
As of late April, New York State is setting aside doses for walk-ins at 16 state-run sites, and many smaller local vaccine providers are also taking walk-in vaccine appointments. Check with your local providers if you’re hoping to get vaccinated as a walk-in.
New York State currently runs a growing number of mass vaccination sites around the state. State officials launched 10 new sites on March 19, including locations at SUNY Orange, the Ulster County Fairgrounds, and SUNY Oneonta.
On Friday, April 16, the state-run site in Albany relocated from SUNY Albany to the Crossgates Mall.
There’s a New York State website, “Am I Eligible?” to sign up for appointments at state-run vaccine sites. It has a fairly clear road map, although the website can be buggy. The phone number for scheduling on state sites is 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).
On the state website, you can determine if you are eligible and make an appointment. When you successfully schedule online, you will receive a confirmation email with a barcode. You must bring this to your appointment.
Once you have a confirmed appointment, you have to complete the New York State Covid-19 Vaccination form online. When you do that, you will receive a submission ID indicating that it is complete. You must bring the submission ID to your appointment. If you cannot submit the form online, there will be a backup available at the site.
Pro tip: Many vaccine-hunters say that the phone number listed on the New York State website is better than the online sign up. More appointments are available to the call center operators, at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829). The line is open from 7am to 10pm, and they are reportedly getting cancelations on a regular basis.
Here’s a sample comment from a Facebook page: “I just got off the NYS vaccine line and had a great representative… it really does matter who answers the phone there and it pays to be very friendly and chatty.”
If you’re scheduling via the “Am I Eligible?” site, be ready for a confusing experience. The site is inconsistent, and some people have found that they can sign up for a slot, but the slot disappears before they finish the process.
Pro tip: If you’re online, skip the insurance part, or the part for your doctor or emergency contact, the vaccine-hunters say. It slows down your online application. Instead, say “no insurance” and bring your insurance card with you when you go for your appointment.
Official New York State vaccine sites are listed on the state website here. They can vaccinate anyone who is eligible.
New York State is also running popup sites in communities across the state that may only appear for a short time. Signup for appointments at these sites can be accessed through the state “Am I Eligible?” portal and hotline.
Here is the current list of state-run vaccination sites:
- Aqueduct Racetrack, South Ozone Park
- Bay Eden Senior Center, Bronx
- Crossgates Mall, Albany
- Javits Center, Manhattan
- Jones Beach, Field 3, Wantagh
- Niagara Falls Convention Center
- Plattsburgh International Airport, Plattsburgh
- Queensbury Aviation Mall—Sears, Queensbury
- Rochester Dome Arena, Henrietta
- State Fair Expo Center: New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse
- Stony Brook, Southampton
- Suffolk CCC, Brentwood
- SUNY Binghamton, Johnson City
- SUNY Corning Community College, Corning
- SUNY Old Westbury, Old Westbury
- SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta
- SUNY Orange, Middletown
- SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Utica
- SUNY Potsdam, Potsdam
- SUNY Rockland Community College, Suffern
- SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook
- Ulster Fairgrounds, New Paltz
- University at Buffalo South Campus, Buffalo
- Westchester County Center, White Plains
- *York College, Health and Physical Education Complex, Jamaica, Queens
- *Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn
- New York National Guard Armory, Yonkers
- Washington Avenue Armory, Albany
- Former Kodak Hawkeye Parking Lot, Rochester
- Delavan Grider Community Center, Buffalo
*Appointments at the starred sites are limited to local residents in certain zip codes at first, and will later open up to the general public. The list of eligible zip codes at the sites limited by residency may change, so if you live near a starred site, check on the state “Am I Eligible?” portal to see if your zip code is eligible.
On Thursday, April 1, another state-run site opens up at Rockland Community College. Appointments at the new site can be made on the state website and hotline starting Tuesday, March 30.
Pro tip: Timing matters. If you’re signing up online, remember that updates for available appointments will come at different times for different systems. Here’s one observation: “So thanks to this group I called the hotline earlier today. No appointments but the very lovely girl suggested I call back between 6 pm and 8 pm tonight as for some reason that’s when they get a lot of cancellations! Well I called back, left my call back number and in 6 minutes they called me back. Low and behold – scored an appointment for Stoneybrook in March.”
Each vaccine site in the state system updates separately, so “refresh often” is a good tactic.
Pharmacies in New York State are currently vaccinating anyone who is eligible.
Some are receiving vaccine from the federal retail pharmacy program; others are getting doses from New York State. Depending on the pharmacy, you may need to sign up on a website or by phone.
If the closest pharmacy to you doesn’t have available appointments, you can try another one. Keep trying: Openings at previously full pharmacies can pop up at odd times.
Some pharmacies may be easier to access by phone. Others require you to have an account on the pharmacy’s website to schedule an appointment. Smaller independent pharmacies may not have online scheduling at all.
Vaccine-seekers online say that pharmacies can be very convenient. “Midnight is the golden hour for appointments,” one vaccine hunter suggested.
Walmart: The company’s vaccine page has a map of Walmart and Sam’s Club locations where COVID-19 vaccine is available. Create an account on their site to use the online scheduler, or call your local pharmacy.
Walgreens: Early on, Walgreens required people to create an account on its website to schedule a vaccine appointment, but the chain has since moved to also allow people to book appointments with their local pharmacy or by calling (800) 925-4733.
From a Facebook post: “I went to my local Walgreens to get info. They told me they only open up new appointments when they have the vaccine in house. They only book 3 days out. Deliveries have been delayed due to weather. “
CVS: Most appointments show up in the morning between 7 and 8am, but may be posted throughout the day. No account is required.
RiteAid: No account is required.
Stop & Shop: No account is required.
Local health departments are getting vaccine doses from New York State and holding vaccination clinics. For the first few months of vaccination, the state instructed them to focus on essential workers, group homes for the developmentally disabled, and people with comorbidities.
Starting March 17, county health departments are able to vaccinate anyone who is eligible. It’s worth checking to see if the county you live or work in has a signup form for you to give them your contact information. Some are keeping wait lists of eligible people for county-run vaccine sites. Others are maintaining a database of people to call, text, or email when appointments open up. Check also with your town or village government to see if they are helping to host any local popup clinics, or if they have resources available to help people schedule appointments.
If you are 60 or over, your county’s Office for the Aging may be able to help you find a vaccine appointment.
If you are an eligible essential worker, ask your employer if they have contacted their county health department to schedule vaccinations.
County distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was interrupted in mid-April when the FDA and CDC recommended a pause in the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The pause temporarily set back county efforts to vaccinate the homebound, which have relied heavily on Johnson & Johnson because of the difficulty of scheduling a two-dose vaccine for that population. On April 24, after the FDA and CDC lifted the pause, New York State resumed giving Johnson & Johnson again. Counties are beginning to give the vaccine again also, and restarting vaccine programs and pop-up clinics that had been on hold because of the Johnson & Johnson pause.
Lower Hudson Valley county sites
The Westchester County Health Department helped set up the state’s vaccine site at the Westchester County Center. It is also holding its own vaccination clinics at the health department, and has partnered with Westchester Community College to establish a vaccination site there. The county is partnering with the Empress Ambulance Service to get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to homebound seniors, and is offering free transportation for vaccination to seniors and people with disabilities through the county’s paratransit system. People seeking transportation should call Paratransit Reservations 24 hours before their vaccine appointment at (914) 995-7272 to secure a ride. Keep an eye on the “Vaccine Information” tab on the county’s coronavirus page for links to register for upcoming clinics.
The Rockland County Health Department is encouraging residents who are eligible for vaccination to follow it on Facebook and Twitter, where announcements about appointments are sometimes made. Rockland County residents who are 60 or older can sign up to the Senior COVID-19 Vaccine Waitlist by calling the Rockland County Office for the Aging at (845) 364-2110, Monday through Friday (except holidays), 8am through 5pm. Spanish and Creole speakers are available. Residents can also sign up for the list online.
The Putnam County Department of Health shares links for scheduling appointments online on its website when they are available. Residents can also follow the department on Facebook and Twitter, where it may post information about upcoming vaccine clinics.
Mid-Hudson Valley county sites
The Orange County Department of Health is holding frequent vaccination clinics for eligible residents, and has an online signup form for getting on a list of people that the county will contact by email, phone call, or postal mail about how to register for upcoming clinics.
The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health holds vaccination clinics at two locations: the former JC Penney at the Poughkeepsie Galleria, and the former CVS in Dover. The county posts local vaccine information to a page on its website, and has a signup form online for residents who want to be added to a list to be contacted about upcoming appointments. Residents can also call the Dutchess County Coronavirus Information Line at (845) 486-3555 to hear weekly updates about vaccine availability in the county by selecting option 1. Dutchess County officials announced in March that the county is partnering with local healthcare providers to vaccinate homebound seniors. Volunteers and staff from Rhinebeck Responds, Starr Library, and the Rhinebeck Interact Club are providing direct personal assistance to those seeking vaccines. Sign up at this link or call Village Hall at (845) 876-7015 ext. 3.
The Columbia County Department of Health is posting new POD appointment registration links each week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings between 5pm-6pm. The county is requiring people with comorbidities to bring a doctor’s note.
The Ulster County Department of Health is currently running two mass vaccination sites. The county’s main site is moving from Kingston High School to the former Best Buy in the Hudson Valley Mall on Thursday, March 18, and the county also runs a site at Ellenville High School. The county has set up a vaccine resource center online where residents can go for information about where and when vaccine is available in the county. There is also a signup form for residents to give the county their contact information, so they can be contacted when appointments are made available. That form requires residents to give an email address. Residents who need help with online access can also contact the Ulster County Recovery Service Center at (845) 443-8888. Ulster County Legislator Eve Walter wrote on March 4 on Facebook: “Are you or do you know a HOME BOUND senior who has not received the COVID19 vaccination? Are you or do you know anyone who is HOME BOUND and not vaccinated? Ulster County will come to you with their new supply of Johnson & Johnson single dose. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the names and contact info for anyone who would be eligible. Thank you.”
Catskills county sites
Sullivan County Public Health is running regular vaccination clinics in Liberty. Vaccine information and a signup form for people to be contacted about upcoming appointment availability is posted on a page on the county website, and anyone who cannot access the internet is encouraged to call the county’s Emergency Community Assistance Center Monday through Friday during business hours at (845) 807-0925 to be added to the contact list. The county is also looking for volunteers to help staff its vaccination site. County health officials announced on February 27 that they are collaborating with Garnet Health Medical Center on larger vaccination clinics to be announced soon, and sharing the county’s signup list to notify people of upcoming clinics.
As of mid-March, Delaware County Public Health has opened up its small weekly vaccine clinics to anyone over 18 who is eligible. County residents who are 60 and older can get help with vaccination by contacting the county Office for the Aging at (607) 832-5750. On March 10, the county health department announced that it would not be collecting names and emails for upcoming clinics, and would announce upcoming vaccine clinic dates on its Facebook page and post registration links on its website.
Greene County has a signup form for people to be notified when upcoming appointments are available from Public Health. Health officials have been holding clinics for different eligible groups at multiple locations around the county, including Catskill, Athens, Cairo, Tannersville, and Coxsackie. The county also posts some vaccine information to its Facebook page.
Schoharie County’s website is updated only infrequently. More current information about vaccination and other local COVID-19 issues can usually be found on the county health department’s Facebook page. The county has a signup form for people who want to be contacted about upcoming appointments. Anyone who has trouble accessing the internet or has questions about county vaccination clinics can also call the county Public Health department at (518) 295-8390. “Be aware that call volume may be high at times,” officials say.
Federally qualified health centers, many of which are the most important healthcare providers in vulnerable low-income communities, are getting vaccine distributions from the federal government. Many serve patients who do not speak English, and may be able to help people and provide resources in other languages. Their priority is to serve local communities and vulnerable people who may be low-income or uninsured. Health centers can vaccinate people in any eligible group.
In the Hudson Valley and southern Catskills region, important health center networks include Sun River Health, Cornerstone Family Healthcare, Hudson Valley Regional Community Health Centers, the Institute for Family Health, Refuah Health, and Open Door Family Medical Centers.
Refuah Health has a mobile health van that is helping to get people vaccinated in underserved communities in Rockland County, News12 reports.
Hospitals and doctor’s offices
As supply increases, smaller medical practices in the region are getting deliveries of vaccine to offer to their patients. Check with local doctors and clinics to see if they have vaccine available.
Starting March 17, hospitals and other medical providers can vaccinate anyone who is eligible. Hospitals are required to keep standby lists in case people with appointments don’t show up at the last minute, and it’s worth calling your local hospital to get on such a list.
The Northwell health system in the New York City suburbs had been vaccinating on site, but is now offering only second-dose appointments and vaccinating healthcare workers, and directing people seeking a first dose to go to the New York State “Am I Eligible?” site to schedule.
Nuvance Health, with hospitals across the mid-Hudson Valley and in Connecticut, is currently scheduling only healthcare workers and second-dose visits for people who had their first dose at a Nuvance hospital.
Mount Sinai, in New York City, had offered easy online scheduling in mid-January. But in mid-February, Mount Sinai canceled all further appointments, citing a lack of supply.
Some of the big hospital systems, like Columbia Presbyterian and NYU, are offering vaccine scheduling to existing patients.
Military veterans may be able to get appointments at Veterans Affairs sites. The national VA is gathering signup information from veterans who want to be vaccinated, and using it to coordinate with local offices. The Hudson Valley VA is also holding walk-in clinics.
On Wednesday, March 24, President Joe Biden signed the Save Lives Act into law, allowing the VA to vaccinate all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, and Civilian Health and Medical Program recipients, regardless of whether they receive health care from the VA.
What do I need to bring to my appointment?
We suggest that you ask the provider what to bring. Common things: A driver’s license or other identification, insurance card if you have one, and mask. Insurance is not required for getting a vaccine, but the provider might want to try to bill your insurer if you have one.
Different sites have different requirements for proof of age and pre-existing conditions. The state vaccine sites will currently accept a “self-attestation” that is part of the registration process to document that you have a condition that makes you eligible. Some other sites—including the pharmacy sites—are being stricter on attestation, with some requesting a doctor’s note or something similar. If your doctor or hospital has an online portal you can access, you may be able to print out a page documenting your condition.
The requirements for documentation seem to be changing quickly. In the earliest days of eligibility for people with underlying conditions, there was a requirement for detailed paperwork at the state sites. But the state later moved to allow people to sign a form stating that they have a condition that makes them eligible. New York’s current instructions for scheduling an appointment and proving eligibility can be found here.
Do I need a second dose?
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received emergency use authorization from the FDA on February 28, is a single-dose vaccine. If you get this vaccine, you will not need a second shot for full protection.
For the two mRNA vaccines that were the first to be authorized, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, a first dose and a second dose are required to grant full immunity. Moderna asks for a second dose 28 days from the first, and Pfizer 21 days. There is some wiggle room, but not much.
The second dose is supposed to be scheduled at the time your first dose is scheduled, and at the same place, though we have learned that there are some gaps.
There are news reports that some scientists think the second dose of an mRNA vaccine is not necessary for people who have already been infected with COVID-19. There has also been controversy in the scientific community over whether it is better for public health to schedule at least one dose for as many people as possible than to guarantee two doses for everyone who gets vaccinated. But the vaccine makers and the FDA currently agree that the second dose is necessary for full protection, and so far, the best guidance available says that everyone who gets the first dose should get the second on time.
If I can’t get an appointment, can I get on a standby or leftovers list?
Some people have reported that they have been able to get vaccinated with surplus vaccine at the end of the day at an administration site. The vials of vaccine have a set number of doses, and if they have vaccine left over at the end of the day, most sites would rather use it than throw it out. If a site is giving out leftovers, they do not need to comply with the eligibility requirements on the state rollout plan. Some sites are keeping “standby” lists, but this differs a lot from site to site.
We have heard from a number of people that during bad weather in February, people canceled appointments and leftovers were available. We don’t know much more than that, and cannot predict success, so you should ask your local vaccine providers what their policy is, and if it makes sense to show up at the end of the day, or if you should register in advance, or if it helps to know someone. This seems clearly to depend on the site.
One Facebook page had this advice: First, find sites in your area, and then “You can call these locations mid to late afternoon and ask if they have excess doses. If it’s Walgreens or Walmart, ask for a Pharmacist. You could also show up at some of these locations later in the day to ask for excess doses. People have also gotten extra doses by calling hospital vaccine clinics. You can also ask if they offer waitlists for excess doses. This could take a bit of time as there are vaccine shortages this week due to weather.”
Many of the vaccine sites are not loudly announcing that they have standby lists. The state-run Westchester County Center site, in White Plains, is quietly making vaccine available (if there is any left) after closing to the National Guard, or to volunteers, a person close to the site said. Walk-ins are not impossible.
This description of the official state “standby” policy is in the New York State guidance for providers. “All providers must keep a daily list of ‘standby’ eligible individuals to be notified of open appointments for vaccine administration on short notice. As soon as providers are aware that there are more doses than people to be vaccinated, ‘standby’ eligible individuals should be called, or other steps must be taken to bring additional eligible recipients to the facility or clinic before the acceptable use period expires. However, there may be times due to inclement weather, cancelations, or extra doses in vial, that there are doses of vaccine that remain at the close of business or the end of a vaccine clinic and no eligible individual can come in before the doses expire.”
Who can help me find or schedule an appointment?
Neighborhood Facebook and Twitter groups have become a primary source of vaccine information for many. We’re not endorsing any of these strategies or pages, but rather reporting on what we are seeing others do:
- The New Paltz Neighbor to Neighbor Facebook group recently offered to help residents make appointments. The pinned post at the top of the page gives some hints about local scheduling.
- The Facebook group COVID19 Dutchess County & Ulster County Resources, with 15,700 members as of March 1, had a lot of local vaccine information. As of March 3, the administrators began to direct vaccine site traffic to a new Facebook page, NY_HV Covid-19 Vaccine Appointment Assistance Team.
- Here is an Upstate and Capital District Facebook Group.
- Here is a Westchester County Facebook group with about 2,800 members as of February 28.
- Here’s a compendium of links for “vaccine finders” nationwide who say they’re helping people make sure that no vaccines are wasted at the end of a day.
There are also several statewide Facebook groups to help people find vaccination appointments and share information:
- New York / Connecticut Vaccine Hunters and Angels has 6,300 members as of February 28.
- New York Covid-19 Vaccination Info has 7,800 members as of February 28.
- Covid Vaccine Help – New York is a private group with 6,700 members as of February 28.
- NY COVID-19 Vaccination Info is another private group with 1,500 members as of February 28.
- NYC Vaccine List is a volunteer effort that shows available appointments using a combination of automated checks and manual checks by volunteers. Refresh often.
- TurboVax, built by a New York City programmer, scrapes state and city websites to find available appointments, and gives a link. The site also posts information about appointments on Twitter.
Other social media sites, like Reddit, have information as well. Here’s an example.
Members of Governor Cuomo’s state COVID-19 task force sometimes share information about vaccine sites and appointments opening up on Twitter. We recommend following Melissa DeRosa.
Volunteer vaccine finders
On some Facebook groups, you can find people or groups who are volunteering to help others find appointments. Here’s a blog post from ClearHealthCosts about that effort. Many volunteers have figured out how to make a lot of appointments, and are using their skills to help others. To find them, you can go to the social media groups mentioned in the section above.
The town of Greenburgh, in Westchester County, has a large and growing network of vaccine finders, dubbed the “COVID Angels.” They are well-organized, and have official support from the town government. In April, they also launched #VaxUpWestchester, a local effort to address vaccine hesitancy.
Pro tip: Vaccine finders are trying to help people who genuinely cannot make an appointment: either they don’t have a computer, or they aren’t tech-savvy enough, or they don’t have a family member or a friend who can help them. If you have the resources to navigate the system, please try to make an appointment yourself, and reach out to these vaccine finders only as a last resort.
If you are aware of a volunteer vaccine finder group in the Hudson Valley or Catskills region that should be listed in this guide, please use this form to let us know.
How can I make an appointment for someone else?
Different vaccination sites have different signup processes, and some of them are easier to navigate as a representative of the person getting vaccinated than others. Among the pharmacies, Walgreens is particularly difficult, since every person signing up for a vaccine appointment needs their own account on Walgreens.com with its own unique email address.
When making an appointment for someone else, either online or over the phone, have their basic information at hand: name, birth date, address, contact information, information about what comorbidities or essential worker eligibility status they have, and insurance information if possible.
The state vaccination hotline has generally allowed people to make appointments on behalf of others, but some reports have said that different operators have different rules. For example, most will let you make an appointment for a relative without having them present or without getting formal consent. Others have found that the operator insisted that an elderly parent had to be connected to the call in real time. If you get someone at the state call center who insists that the person you are making the appointment for needs to be on the call, and that’s not possible, you can back out and call back.
Questions? Tips? Anything else we should know about? Contact us at email@example.com, and we’ll do our best to straighten it out.
The River and ClearHealthCosts thank our community sponsors for their support of this local guide.
Connecting our communities since 1916, MTC is a community-minded, locally-operated, employee-owned telecommunications provider for the greater Catskills Region. With a fiber-based network, MTC offers high speed internet, cable TV, and phone services for residential, small business and enterprise applications. mtctelcom.com
The MARK Project Inc. is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt rural development company that unites efforts and secures resources to build and revitalize our communities. For over 40 years, MARK has provided housing programs, economic development and technical assistance services to the towns of Andes, Bovina, Middletown, Roxbury and Shandaken, and the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville. markproject.org