- As vaccine distribution expands, more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are now available at pharmacies, community health centers, and newly opened supersites.
- Experts say the process for signing up for an appointment is similar in each of these locations.
- They urge the public to check a location’s website to make sure there are no closures or delays before heading to your appointment.
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With supersites, pharmacies, and community health centers now providing COVID-19 vaccinations, you may be trying to figure out whether you’re eligible, and if you are, how to navigate the process.
To help inform you along the way, Healthline asked experts how to navigate the process of getting an appointment at a vaccine supersite, a local pharmacy, or a community health center.
The experts also discussed what you can expect when you get there.
All of this is a good reminder to check the website and social media of vaccine facilities for updates on closures or delays.
CIC Health runs three mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, and Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Massachusetts.
Company officials gave Healthline a rundown of their process.
Rodrigo Martinez, chief marketing and experience officer for CIC Health, said his company will have administered close to 100,000 vaccinations by the end of this week.
The first step, he told Healthline, is always to determine whether you’re eligible in the state where you live.
To be vaccinated in Massachusetts you must live, work, or be a student in the state as well as be eligible according to rollout guidelines.
Right now, Massachusetts is administering the vaccine to phase 1 and 2 groups, which includes people 65 and older, people with two certain medical conditions, healthcare workers, and first responders.
“Every Thursday thousands of people go to the site, and they check and they see [when] appointments are available for next week,” he said. “Once they make an appointment, then we send them a very detailed email explaining how we’re going to welcome them, everything from what to expect, where to park, what time to get there, what clothes to wear to make sure that your shoulder is easily accessible.”
You’re asked to come 5 to 10 minutes before your appointment but not any sooner.
“There’s no need because we’ve calculated the flow, so that we don’t have [lines],” Martinez said.
You’ll be observed 15 to 30 minutes following your COVID-19 vaccination, per requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During that time, Martinez said, people are encouraged to schedule their second dose.
“More than 90 percent of the people that are here with us have their second appointment booked by the time they leave,” he said.
When people who’ve been vaccinated leave, they’ll receive a reminder about the second appointment.
“The experience starts on our website because that’s where we have all the information and it finishes on social media. Meaning, when they come to our site we have a special place where they can go into the stadium and they can take a selfie. We give them a button that says that they got vaccinated here,” Martinez said.
“That’s to encourage them to communicate through their social media networks that they had a great experience, that it’s important to get vaccinated,” he said.
Martinez said there’s usually a constant flow of people.
He said they vaccinated close to 4,000 people a day last week at Gillette Stadium. That number was increased to 6,000 on Monday, Feb. 22.
“Every time we scale we learn more things,” he said. “Our goal is to give as many people as possible the vaccination safely, efficiently, and also have a good experience.”
Although Massachusetts has administered more than 1 million doses statewide, the rollout hasn’t been without hiccups. On Feb. 18, as 1 million new people were eligible for vaccinations, the website that the state of Massachusetts uses for scheduling experienced major technical issues and delays.
This further supports the fact that patience is required no matter where you’re scheduling your vaccination.
White House officials announced earlier this month that people who are eligible for the vaccine will have the opportunity to get vaccinated at select pharmacies across the country through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination.
It’s a public-private partnership with 21 national pharmacy partners and networks of independent pharmacies representing more than 40,000 pharmacy locations nationwide.
Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart are among the pharmacies on the list.
Pharmacy partners will eventually provide COVID-19 vaccines in every state or territory where they have retail or long-term care pharmacy locations, Kate Grusich, a CDC public affairs specialist, told Healthline earlier this month.
“Federal pharmacy partners will follow guidance from their jurisdictions on which populations are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and will screen individuals prior to vaccination to ensure their retail locations are following the jurisdiction’s vaccination plan,” Grusich said.
Dr. Kevin Ban, the chief medical officer at Walgreens, also told Healthline that the first step is to check your state’s COVID-19 website to find out who can get a vaccination.
If you are eligible, locate a Walgreens via the
“We really want to confirm those second appointments,” Ban said.
If you’ve had a flu vaccine at a pharmacy before, the COVID-19 vaccination process will be familiar. Walgreens pharmacists will be asking for proof of eligibility, such as a driver license, and if you’re in a certain age group.
Ban suggested that anyone with an underlying medical condition reach out to their doctor for a note of documentation. It will be good to have on hand when you go to the pharmacy, although it’s not necessarily a requirement since a lot will be based on trust.
“Age is easy to verify,” he said. “Other things may be more of a challenge.”
After you receive your shot, you’ll wait 15 minutes for observation and leave with your vaccination card filled out and an appointment for your second dose.
This sounds straightforward, but Ban warns that the early days of the pharmacy program could involve waiting — so be prepared for that.
“People confuse eligibility with availability,” he said. “What will solve that is simple: availability.”
Waiting for a slot may be a part of the process no matter where you go. CVS website lists states that are currently administering vaccines and states that are not.
The sites will also tell you which locations in participating states are “fully booked,” which is the situation in many states.
“We’ll add more [appointments] as they become available,” online messaging reads. “Please check back later.”
In February, the Biden administration announced the launch of the Federally Qualified Health Center Program for COVID-19 Vaccination that will deliver vaccine to federally qualified community health centers (FQHCs), which provide primary care services in underserved communities across the country.
There are more than 1,300 centers serving almost 30 million people in the United States.
The initial phase will include at least one community health center in each state, expanding to 250 centers in the coming weeks. Click here to see a list of participating health centers.
One such center, CCI Health & Wellness Services in Maryland, which began administering doses on Jan. 19, is reaching out to the eligible population for appointments, calling them one by one to schedule.
Maryland is currently in phase 1C, which includes essential workers in lab services, agriculture, manufacturing, postal services, and other occupations.
CCI Health & Wellness has also reached out to people via its patient portal, social media, email, and text to let them know that the health center is a vaccination site for those who are eligible, said Sonya Bruton, PsyD, MPA, the organization’s chief executive officer and president.
“Some of our patients when they’re watching the news and following what phase they’re in, they will call the scheduling center to see if we have appointments, once they realize we’re in the phase they fit into,” said Michelle Preston, MSN RN, CCI’s chief operating officer.
The scheduling process is similar to that of the flu vaccination. People are asked to bring anything they need for a typical appointment, such as a driver license.
Although processes will vary across the United States, CCI Health & Wellness Services patients must pass a screening (including temperature and symptom check) before coming into the office just as they would for any other visit.
People of general health or well-being wait for a 15-minute observation period after receiving the vaccine.
“When they come for their first appointment, we’ll schedule [the second dose] right after they receive their first vaccination, 28 days from the first one,” Preston told Healthline.
The CDC has distributed a card to all vaccination sites to be used for patient vaccination information, Bruton told Healthline.
It includes information like the kind of vaccination that the person received, the initials of the person who delivered the vaccine, and the lot number that the vaccine came from.
The center has administered about 500 vaccines and hasn’t experienced any long lines or crowding.
“The way that we have our staffing set up is we have separate vaccinators for the COVID vaccine that are separate from our site [staff], so they’re only doing COVID vaccinations on that particular day,” Preston said.
Bruton explained that part of the value of doing outreach to their own patient population is that the staff is able to immediately answer any questions people have about the vaccine or its safety.
“During those conversations, if people have any hesitations we’re able to speak to those and to give the information and our recommendation that everyone get vaccinated,” Bruton said.
“We supplement that with material on our website and most other federally qualified health centers have done that as well,” Bruton said. “So, for those who are still trying to understand the vaccine and what it might mean for them, there are real live clinicians who can answer questions and talk through what they’re thinking and what their fears might be.”