In 10 days, Washington state will open up COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone 16 and over who wants a shot. The question is, will you be able to find one?
After a bumpy rollout of vaccine distribution, the state is hitting its stride, administering 57,000 doses per day on average. And it’s getting easier to find providers with ready doses. The volunteer-run CovidWA.com site has launched a tool that sends text notifications of nearby, newly released appointments. The service is free to anyone who signs up. The platform, which updates every five minutes, also has a Twitter feed broadcasting open spots.
“Instead of you having to find the appointment, the appointment is coming to you,” said Maureen O’Hara, a project manager for the effort and retired Microsoft employee.
The CovidWA.com site has seen close to 8 million hits since it went live in early February. The platform scrapes data from websites managed by more than 850 clinics and providers statewide. It’s also sharing this information with the state’s Vaccinate WA appointment-finding website.
Use of these platforms is sure to spike as the last cohort of Washington’s adult residents — about 1.2 million people — become eligible for vaccination starting April 15.
“We are up and ready,” O’Hara said. “It’s going to be a big influx. There are no two ways about it.”
But what about people who want to get a jump on their jab?
State health officials said if you’re part of the last eligible group, you can sign up now for an appointment on the 15th or later — if you can find one.
“Most providers will not be listing appointments available that far out,” said Michele Roberts, acting assistant secretary for the Washington State Department of Health, at press conference Friday.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department recently echoed the response that anyone can sign up for the 15th or later.
Currently, approximately 5 million people in Washington are eligible for vaccination and nearly 30% of residents have had their first shot. Almost 18% are fully vaccinated.
I won’t be eligible until April 15. Can I register now?
You can register now for any vaccine event or appointment that takes place on or after April 15. The state recently ended Phase Finder to determine eligibility and will rely on the honor system.
— Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (@TPCHD) April 2, 2021
Those who can’t wait for the 15th but are loathe to gin up “faux”-morbidities (as opposed to state-approved co-morbidities) that would make them eligible sooner, can still try to chase down extra doses that risk being thrown out. Depending on the provider, different locations will allow people to getting on waiting lists or queue up on site at the end of the day to claim leftover doses.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any fail-proof databases or apps for finding these spare doses. Facebook users can find local groups sharing tips on where to look for shots, including Seattle Vaccine Hunters.
The CovidWA.com team is looking farther out, past these first and second doses, and wondering how long its tool will be needed. With the increase of more infectious COVID variants, some of which are also more resistant to the vaccines, as well as uncertainty about how long vaccinations will provide protection, there might be a need for booster shots.
CovidWA.com is run by about 12 volunteers, and O’Hara said that dozens more have offered to help. The platform is not planning to add more features, so the workload has stabilized. But there is a matter of maintaining operations into the future.
“We’re part of the solution,” O’Hara said. “And we want to make sure that data provided by CovidWA.com is always part of the solution.”