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How to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine in your state

NPR has created a lookup tool to help you understand how things work in your state and connect you with local resources.

  • By Selena Simmons-Duffin/NPR
Volunteer Ellen Neuborne checks a man's temperature at a COVID-19 vaccination site Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Las Vegas.

 John Locher / AP Photo

Volunteer Ellen Neuborne checks a man's temperature at a COVID-19 vaccination site Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Las Vegas.

(Washington) — The COVID-19 vaccines are here, but if it’s your turn to get vaccinated, how are you supposed to sign up?

The answers vary by place, so NPR created a lookup tool to help you understand how things work in your state and connect you with local resources. And we’re sharing guiding principles and advice for navigating the process below.

Search for your state in the look-up below. (There are a few large cities with their own immunization plans that you’ll find on our list as well.)

Please note that the information in this tool is subject to change, as states roll out new processes and new providers get the vaccine. Always check with your state health department for the latest guidance.

Advice for navigating a patchwork system

It helps to understand how the system works as you set out on your path to getting the vaccine. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you proceed.

1. First, understand the big picture. As you try to navigate the vaccine system in your state, be aware that there are multiple points of entry for those seeking a vaccine. Although the federal government pays for and distributes the vaccines, it’s up to state and local health departments and the private sector — hospitals, clinics and pharmacies — to actually schedule and give out the shots.

In many states, the different systems don’t talk to each other. So when it’s your turn to get signed up for a shot, you may need to look for available appointments in all three of these separate streams, depending on your state.

2. Keep an eye on pharmacies. In addition to sending vaccines to states, the government is sending vaccines directly to chain pharmacies around the country, in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program which launched February 11.

This week, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients announced that the government is increasing the allocation for pharmacies in this program from a nationwide total of 1 million to 2 million doses weekly. Look into which pharmacy chains in your state are giving out vaccines by checking the CDC’s website. In some cases, you may be able to book an appointment online, directly with the pharmacy, if you’re eligible in your state.

3. Remember the vaccine is free. You can still get it if you don’t have insurance. If you are insured, your insurance is required to cover the costs of administering the shot. Make sure to have your health insurance info handy in case you do find an available slot and need to put that in when registering.

4. Be patient and persistent. There are not enough doses available right now for people who are currently eligible, and demand is generally high, so you might have to persevere.

It can certainly be frustrating: Hotlines can be jammed. Sign-ups can fill up the minute they open. Providers don’t always schedule second doses, leaving people who succeeded in getting an initial appointment to scramble to set up their second dose within the recommended window.

5. Look for local advice. Some tips that can help you find a slot are specific to a local area or state. You can find local guides from the media or places like AARP and GoodRx. Follow your state and local government on social media for specific tips where you live. You may hear about new mass vaccination sites opening up with available slots.

Also search for Facebook groups — like this one in South Florida — and other local volunteer efforts that have sprung up to try and help folks navigate all of this.

Matt Slocum / AP

Penny Cracas, left, with the Chester County, Pa., Health Department, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to EMT Christian Ventura at the Chester County Government Services Center, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in West Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

If you’re feeling exasperated, remember that because of the patchwork nature of the system local health departments don’t have all the answers.

“They don’t universally have access to the systems that tell you where vaccine is within their jurisdiction,” explains Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

A central promise of the Biden administration was to offer more assertive federal leadership over the COVID-19 public health response. Recently, officials have acknowledged the confusion and promised they’re “looking at various options” for something more clear and centralized. Several members of the White House COVID-19 team helped rescue, the Obamacare insurance marketplace, after its disastrous launch in 2013.

But in all likelihood, the patchwork of public and private sign up systems will continue. “At this point, it’s probably too late in the game to set up a system to connect everything,” Hannan says. “So it’s really almost better to just communicate to people: ‘Here’s where the vaccine’s going and here’s what you need to do.’ [Right now,] we’re not even doing a great job of that.”

It is worth noting: the patchwork might not be pretty, but people are getting vaccinated — more than 55 million doses have gotten into people’s arms so far. More than a million shots are given on average every day across the country.

And more and more vaccine is coming. “I feel like we’re turning a corner,” Hannan says. With a promising production outlook and “potentially another vaccine coming on, I feel like we’re in a good place — I do.”


Audrey Carlsen designed and developed this tool, Rhitu Chatterjee, Richard Harris, Pien Huang, Kristen Kendrick, Rosemary Misdary, Yuki Noguchi, Julia Wohl, and Carmel Wroth contributed research and reporting.

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