Vaccines.gov is useless

In my area, within 25 miles, it shows 14 locations when I check the “only show available appointments” box. 2 of those have the “appointments available” green checkmark, the other 12 say “vaccines in stock, call for appointment availability”.

Not a one of them will let me make an appointment. All the ones with websites make you enter a bunch of information about DOB, past vaccinations, etc. before telling you they don’t have any appointments. The ones with only phone numbers sometimes require waiting on hold talk to someone who says they don’t have any appointments, and sometimes lead you through a phone tree to an automated message that says they don’t have any appointments.

Infuriating.

How are we still so fucking bad at all of this?

Both my state and county have websites for the same purpose. I would check to see if you have the same where you live. I used my county’s website to set up my booster shot. Entered the info required, showed up at my appointed time and less than 3 minutes after arriving I was done.

Every place with a pharmacy is offering shots in my area. I just picked one and went on their website to make an appointment. I’ve noticed a lot of signs that indicate walk-in appointments are available too.

My state and county public health websites direct me to vaccines.gov.

They also say “vaccines are plentiful, and there’s no reason not to get one”.

The 14 sites provided by vaccines.gov are mostly pharmacies. None of them will give appointments.

To be clear: It appears that there is legitimate demand that is outstripping vaccine supply (for the moment). I’m only a little upset about that, because it’s legitimately a hard logistical problem.

The thing I’m pissed about is that we apparently can’t keep a fucking website up to date and that every stupid pharmacy website makes me enter a bunch of info or waste time in a phone tree before they tell me they have no appointments. They already know they have no appointments before I tell them my birthday!

I think your state and county sites are terrible. In NJ, it seems to be a much smoother process.

Ditto here in Maricopa county. Like racer72 when I wanted my booster a few weeks ago I went to the county vax site and like the OP, had to enter a bunch of info only to find there were no appointments that they knew of. Frustrated I went to the Walgreens site and in minutes after entering little but my name and Medicare insurance number, had an appointment at one nearby for later that afternoon.

Walgreens are the 2 locations that show the green “appointments available” checkmark on vaccines.gov. But they do not have any appointments.

Hmmm. My experience was during the geezer-booster period. Now that it is all adults, it may be demand is outstripping supply.

Yes, and again, that’s not really what I’m complaining about. It would be nice if there were appointments available, but in the absence of that, the whole reason there was supposed to be a centralized website is so that every poor sucker didn’t have to waste time calling up every pharmacy that doesn’t have appointments.

But it completely fails at that.

Agreed. It would be nice if instead of checking location by location, day by day, for available appointments only for them to say “no appointments available” for their system to show when and where there ARE open appointments. Even if they are a month away.

I found that Walmart of all places was a good place to check.

I was unable to schedule an appointment at my hospital, but was told I could come in during the walk-in period, so I’m gonna try to get in early. If that doesn’t work, I know from their website that there are appointments at the local Walmart.

But I also live in a lowvax area, around 40% or so.

Is it possible that some of those places don’t have appointments, because they’re all walk-in? You might want to consider calling up the individual store (not the corporate number) and asking them. Or even just walking up and asking.

That’s the case here. I went to my local pharmacy, filled out the forms, waited in line, and got the booster. They were not making appointments.

Do you use Costco? Because they’re doing walk in boosters briskly. Got my 3x Moderna there couple weeks back, just filled out some forms, about a 15 minute wait in line and done, easy peasy.

I agree with you, but will say that building a web-site that aggregates all of the various hospital/pharmacy/doctor offices reservation web-sites is a large lift (especially since many of the feeding sites probably weren’t designed with the idea of feeding data to an outside aggregator).

Agreed that it sucks. Vaccines are in high demand here, especially Pfizer. I manually went to the websites of all the main places (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, etc.) and they are all appointment-only, with the nearest appointment being weeks out. Fine, whatever. At least someone’s getting vaccinated. I went to vaccines.gov, hoping it might find someplace I missed, but no–it tells me there are plenty of appointments available in places that I know don’t have them.

And as you note, it doesn’t simplify the process at all. I still have to go through the same personal info crap on each one. Completely useless.

At least you have “weeks out”. Like, if I went to the website and their earliest appointment was 3 weeks out, or 7, I could at least make an appointment. Or if I could check their website and find out if there were appointments without entering all my information over and over, I could quickly check it every few days.

The logistics of taking appointments or making a webpage that tells you if any appointments exist before you have to go enter all the info is not rocket science, and it’s just one more reminder of the relative incompetence of our [public] health system.

Well, not all of them had appointments. It’s not just vaccines.gov that sucks; each site had their own system for checking appointments, some of them requiring creating an account. Absolutely none of them had a simple “check for appointments in an X mile radius” without inputting personal information.

At least one also had a stupid bug where I’d search for Pfizer vaccines, come to a list of available sites, and then somehow find myself at one that only had Moderna vaccines.

I don’t know anything at all about web infrastructure or even if that phrase has anything to do with what I’m trying to refer to, but I think the answer is simply that this isn’t the kind of thing you can just start doing well during a crisis. You have to invest in it. You presumably have to have people on staff who build systems in a way that makes sense to handle a crisis, and fund them, and let them make a plan before the crisis actually hits.

If you leave it up to private enterprise and just assume they’ll do it efficiently, they will: they’ll do it in a way that’s efficient for them, meaning you get the equivalent of the customer service automated message telling you to check the website, which gives you a number to call. Underfunded public systems grafted on top of those systems probably aren’t going to fix that.

I doubt we would have handled this extremely well prior to 2016, but certainly between 2016 and 2020 we were actively trying to make ourselves worse at this kind of thing.