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Navigating the COVID vaccine booking systems

Many major hospitals like Hartford Healthcare utilize the MyChart plus booking system.

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — VAMS, MyChart, retail pharmacies. With so many places to book a vaccine appointment, it can be confusing to navigate all the different systems.

Thursday was an exciting day. We said goodbye to all the confusing phases of eligibility. Now, everyone 16 and older can book a COVID shot, and on Thursday morning there were thousands of appointments available.

It was a rush right out of the gate. "Now we're facing 20 different websites. Where do I go? This one, that one. Which works, which doesn’t work?" said Joel Leyden of VaccineAngels.com.

VAMS, the Vaccine Administration Management System is perhaps the most clunky — but it has the most providers. Covering hospitals, mass vaccine clinics, community health centers, and independent pharmacies. Some tips for VAMS; pre-register with the Department of Public Health, it can take a few days for them to set up your account. Once set up know that even if a clinic link says “no available appointments” sometimes that’s a glitch. Click through them anyway. "Many of the healthcare providers update their websites at around midnight," said Leyden.

Many major hospitals like Hartford Healthcare utilize the MyChart plus booking system. You’ll need to set up an account or book via phone at 860-827-7690. Dr. James Cardon, the Chief Clinical Officer of Hartford Healthcare said, "We certainly know that there is a lot more demand than we have appointments for."

Speaking of phone lines, phones are ringing off the hook at the United Way 211 vaccine appointment assist line. "We started today with thousands of available appointments and had booked about 800 appointments between 8-9 AM already this morning," said Lisa Tepper Bates, the CEO of the United Way.

Their number is 877-918-2224. 300 people were answering the phones Thursday. That will also be the case Friday and all weekend from 8 AM - 8 PM. "We are going to answer at least 10,000 calls today, probably more," said Tepper-Bates.

You can also snag an appointment at the retail pharmacies. CVS, Walgreens, even the in-store pharmacies at supermarkets and Walmart. Each of them has a different online booking system. "They all at the end of the day are set up to find you a place, time, and opportunity to get the shot," said Nathan Tinker, the CEO of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association. "Often, you’ll see availability open at about 6 AM," he said.

And if you’ve tried all that and still can’t get an appointment, the vaccine angels say turn to them. "It’s a real volunteer citizens army that has risen to the occasion and they are doing great work," said Joel Leyden, who founded the group. They are made up of social media mavens who can provide you with some divine intervention to help you book — or secure an excess dose at a pharmacy where up to 20% of appointments are missed. "Go down there at 4 o’clock, give them your name. Let them know that you are there and ask if there’s any excess vaccine available."

There are also free booking websites like YourCOVIDShot.com. But you’ll have to assess your comfort level with handing over medical info to a third party.

Connecticut has 240,000 first doses this week. And in just a few short weeks, we may get to the point where you don’t even need an appointment to get a vaccine. Hartford has already started doing this for its residents.

    

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