Tips for finding a COVID-19 vaccine in MA

One year after this pandemic hit Massachusetts, help is on the way – and it’s being doled out at your local CVS. I put together the following tips to help my friends and family as they search for a vaccine, and wanted to share more broadly in case these could help others. (Note that this only applies to MA, since each state has a different policy.) None of this is a medical opinion, just some items to keep in mind as you deal with the logistics of getting a vaccine. If you have advice to share, add it in the comments and I’ll update the post as needed!

  1. The best shot is the one in your arm – unless your medical provider has told you to seek a certain version, just get whatever is easiest to book and don’t look back!
  2. Preregister with the state (link here) – but don’t wait for them to set your appointment. If you do get a notice that there is an appointment waiting for you, absolutely take it, but also plan to be doing this yourself and having the state system be a backup rather than your only option. (I have friends who qualified when they registered and have yet to hear anything about an opening, more than a week later.)
  3. You are technically eligible to register at 12:01 on the day that you are eligible for the vaccine. Some people are registering earlier, but this is not the state’s intention.
  4. Note that appointments are often within 72 hours or less, and many will be the same day. Be ready to be flexible!
    1. If possible, consider taking a sick day / easy day for the next morning – lots of my friends have reported feeling out of it for both shots, and the second one especially can take some recovery time (but is still entirely worth it.)
  5. Once you book, try not to cancel – even if you get something sooner. It can be hard to reschedule people for only one opening, so do your best to pick a date (first and second) that works for you so the system can preserve resources rather than everyone rebooking and leaving random open spots.
  6. CVS and Walgreens are posting new appointments each day, for all vaccine types. It’s not clear how quickly these sites will update their drop-down menus to account for newly eligible people, so consider how long you’re willing to wait. (Could take a few days – but Walgreens already updated theirs on 3/21 to include the groups eligible on 3/22, so could be quick!)
    1. For CVS, use the tipsheet here (as shared by the MA vaccine group, below, not created by me) – recently, new appointments drop at midnight on the dot and also at other times during the day. 
    2. For Walgreens, you apparently have to set up a Walgreens account in advance, and if you aren’t already logged in when the time comes, you will not get a spot. You can learn more on the Walgreens website.
  7. Be aware that some sites require you to be responsible for booking your second dose and others will handle it for you – know which one you’re doing so you can immediately book your second dose, if needed (for example, I think CVS asks you to log in separately for #2).
  8. If you have trouble being online at midnight or using a computer under pressure, you can ask to join the MA Vaccine Hunter / Angels group and folks there can help you out. They are helping people find appointments, but recommend you find your own unless you really hit a wall. Even if you plan to find yours solo, you can still learn from the links in this group to see which sites are open when.
    1. If you do use this group or any other assistance registering, stop before you give out your insurance info. You will need to share some contact info and address etc, but you should not need to give insurance until you arrive at the site, so be wary of releasing this info to anyone.
  9. Try to book as close to home as possible, but consider leaving walkable / public transit accessible spots and those in low-income or hard-hit areas off your search list (if you have other transit), so more of our neighbors can get their shots too.
  10. For folks who can’t get a vaccine right away and are still getting tests, for either exposure or travel, check out these following free test sites – I’ve used them both and recommend them!
    1. Project Beacon: drive through, the closest one to me operates out of a shopping plaza (in Revere), my results came back in 12 hours via email. This is the lower nasal version. You can book as many tests as you need (and can rebook if you end up being available sooner / later) – they had a ton of availability when I needed it.
    2. Project Baseline: drive through, the closest one to me operates out of RiteAid (in Revere), results have come back within 48 hours (via email) though can take longer. This is the deep-nasal version. You can only book one appointment at a time and they do still fill up a few days in advance (though it’s getting easier to schedule on short notice)

Good luck getting your vaccine – but still keep that mask on until further notice, and we’ll all get through this together!