5 tips to get your COVID-19 vaccine appointment

2 women with 1,400+ appointment registrations between them offer advice on how to secure an appointment

Have any luck scheduling you or a loved one for the COVID-19 vaccine? Here are some tips to help smooth out the process.

SAN ANTONIO – With every Texan 16 years or older eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, the race for vaccination appointments is about to get a lot more competitive.

So how can you maximize your chances of getting a spot?

KSAT 12 spoke with two women who have spent their free time helping to get more than 1,400 people between them signed up for vaccine appointments.

They offer the following tips to get your own appointment.

1. Don’t rely solely on mass vaccination sites

Large vaccination sites like the Alamodome or the WellMed clinics may be useful, but they shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of your search. Lisa Holguin and Karen James both recommend you also check with providers that have fewer doses per location.

“I would recommend looking at local pharmacies. There’s a bunch of them that are coming out,” said Holguin, who has signed up at least 420 people so far.

James, who has signed up more than 1,000 people so far, said she mainly sticks to H-E-B and Walmart. Those two, along with CVS Pharmacy, are poised to be big vaccine providers in the weeks to come, though they don’t have the same profile as the largest sites.

KSAT has compiled information on some of the biggest providers in the San Antonio area HERE, though it’s not an exhaustive list.

2. Sign up for alerts, and check providers frequently

Take whatever advantage you can get by signing up for whatever text, email, or smart phone alerts you can find.

For those providers that don’t have alert options, like H-E-B or Walmart, check their sites frequently. Appointments may pop up throughout the day, and checking at unusual hours can help, too.

“Where I get the most time - most people, I should say - is early morning, 2 to 4 o’clock in the morning,” said James. “I’m like busting people out left and right.”

If you find a vaccine provider with a wait list, go ahead and sign up, too. Though you may want to use that as a backup plan while you continue to search for something sooner.

Here are some of the places to sign up for notifications or to check for updates.

  • COSA text notifications - text “vaccine” to 55000 for updates on appointments through the four main vaccination providers: the City of San Antonio (at the Alamodome), WellMed, UT Health, and University Health (at Wonderland of the Americas).
  • UH Go Mobile App - University Health has its own smart phone app which provide a heads-up for new appointments.
  • UH Email updates - University Health says you can also sign up for email notifications through its Health Focus SA blog.
  • Slack - Holguin says there are several channels on the Slack app, which is available for smart phones and computers, that have information on new appointments. You can find the channels by searching “Texas Vaccine Updates.”
  • CVS - Check availability on its website.
  • HEB - Check availability on its website.
  • WalMart - Check availability on its website.
  • UT Health - Check availability on its website.
  • DSHS - The Department of State Health Services website lists the state’s weekly vaccine allocations, which could help you make some educated guesses on where new appointments might open up. However, it does not appear up-to-date with the allocations that go directly to local pharmacies through a separate, federal program.

3. Be prepared to schedule family members separately

The vast majority of vaccine providers are only offering appointments one-at-a-time, generally through online sign-ups. So, without some blazing fast typing and a decent amount of luck, you are going to have trouble snagging multiple appointments at the same time and place.

“This is what I tell people when they call me and they’re husband or wife - I always tell them, ‘I’m going to try to get you together. But at this point, it’s pretty much whatever you get,’” Holguin said.

The lone exception for multiple sign-ups that Holguin and James know of was WellMed, which has two vaccination sites in the city. A WellMed spokesman confirmed they will allow four or five people in the same family to register per phone call.

However, WellMed also has a reputation for being a notoriously frustrating way to get an appointment. Since it funnels all sign-ups through its phone system, it can take hundreds of calls before you get through - if you get through at all. So you may not want to put all your eggs in that basket.

4. Don’t be picky

This goes for the time, location, and type of vaccination. The more flexible you are, the more opportunities you are going to have.

James said she has sent people to Austin, Pearsall, and even Brownsville - though that particular person had family there.

“The further out you’re willing to go, the better. If you’re trying to rely on getting something in San Antonio, you’re going to be waiting,” James said.

If you do have limitations, though - whether it’s transportation issues, a tough work schedule, or a doctor recommending you pursue only a certain type of vaccination - the next piece of advice will come in twice as handy.

5. Be patient

There are still only so many doses to go around in Texas. So chances are, you are going to have to wait some time before you get vaccinated.

Holguin advises that you expect to spend two to three hours looking for an appointment. While she and James have been able to make numerous appointments per day, they also know their ways around the different systems.

“If it’s your first time looking, you’re probably going to spend a couple of days - two or three days - kind of looking and getting familiar with the system and seeing where you can actually get one at,” Holguin said. “And you’ll start to notice which places are - you’ll miss some, you know, but you’ll say, ‘OK, well they seem to release a lot of this store.”

But when you find a spot that works for you, grab it. Because it’s guaranteed someone else is going for it, too.

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About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.