Looking to get a coronavirus vaccination but struggling to figure out how or where to book one? You’re not alone. The rollout of the eagerly anticipated COVID-19 shots has been anything but smooth and resulted in widespread frustration, system crashes and clogged phone lines.
With the caveat that the situation is changing daily, if not hourly, here’s what to know about how different health care providers in the Bay Area are handling coronavirus vaccines.
Q: Who can get vaccinated now?
A: California said this week that residents age 65 and up are now eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. That sounds nice on paper, but reality is a little — or a lot — messy. Previously, the state had said health care workers and people living in nursing homes and other facilities were first in line. And with hospitals and counties struggling to get vaccine doses, many in that first category still have not been vaccinated. So just because state officials in Sacramento announced expanded access doesn’t mean the health care providers doing the actual vaccinating are ready to expand access.
Q: So if I’m over 65, does that mean I can’t get a vaccine?
A: Not necessarily. Because the U.S. has a fragmented health care system, the answer is, it depends. If you have a health care provider, that should be your starting point. Below is a list of what some of the major Bay Area’s providers are telling patients about how and where to make an appointment and who is eligible. Some counties are also setting up mass vaccination sites — think drive-through shots at big stadiums — but generally are urging people with access to private health care to go that route.
Kaiser is posting vaccine information on its website. The HMO says it is scheduling limited vaccine appointments for people 65 and up. Patients are asked to call 866-454-8855 to schedule a vaccine. On Friday, that call center was overloaded and a recording told people to call back tomorrow. Kaiser said in a statement it expected to have an online booking system set up next week.
Sutter Health (Palo Alto Medical Foundation)
Sutter’s vaccine website says it is scheduling appointments for those age 75 and up, prioritizing patients at the highest risk. Sutter patients can call 844-987-6115 to schedule an appointment or sign into their My Health Online portal to reserve a time online.
Stanford Health Care
Stanford’s coronavirus site says it is vaccinating its primary care patients, but eligibility varies by county. Residents of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties who are at least 75 years old can be vaccinated at 2585 Samaritan Dr., San Jose. Stanford expects to notify patients 65 and up in Alameda and Contra Costa counties early next week about vaccination locations in the area. Eligible patients can make an appointment via the MyHealth portal or by calling 650-498-9000.
Stanford also suggests residents look into vaccination opportunities offered by their county. (More on that below.)
El Camino Health
El Camino is allowing Santa Clara County residents age 75 and older to book a vaccine appointment. El Camino says patients should book the appointment online.
John Muir Health
John Muir says it plans to begin vaccinating those 75 and over the week of Jan. 25 and will reach out to patients to schedule an appointment. It will contact patients using patient portal messages, email, text messages and phone calls.
Q: I don’t have a primary care provider but I’m over 65 and want a vaccine. What do I do?
A: This is where county health departments come in. Here’s how Bay Area counties are handling vaccinations.
Alameda is currently limiting its vaccinations to health care workers but said it expects to expand to others in the coming weeks. The county’s website allows residents to sign up to receive a notification when they are able to schedule a vaccine.
Contra Costa County
Contra Costa is scheduling vaccine appointments for residents 65 and up. Residents who qualify can fill out an online form to request an appointment.
San Francisco County
San Francisco has set up an online notification system that residents can sign up for. Starting Jan. 19, eligible residents and workers can get a text or email notifying them that it’s their turn for a vaccine.
San Mateo County
San Mateo is still limiting its vaccines to health care workers and residents and staff in long-term care homes. The county’s website will be updated when those 65 and up can make an appointment for a vaccination.
Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County’s website says it is able to schedule vaccinations for those age 75 and up who live in the county, including Santa Clara Valley Medical Center patients. The county says Kaiser, PAMF and Stanford patients are not eligible and must book through those providers.
Q: I’m younger and not a health care worker, but I still want a vaccine. When can I get one?
A: The short answer is, we don’t know yet, but hopefully by the middle of the year. When depends on a range of factors, from how the Biden administration approaches the coronavirus pandemic to how well and quickly major health providers ramp up their vaccination plans.
Check back for updates.