A look at pharmacies’ vaccine search pages
Arizona opened COVID vaccine registration at their state-run facilities to all adults as of March 24th. By the end of the day, all major locations available in Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix) had updated their websites, too.
I searched for vaccines at CVS, Walgreens, Safeway, and Fry’s Food and Drug. A particular wrinkle to my schedule was that I am moving, so I’m looking for either the J&J one-dose vaccine, a second dose by April 17th, or a second dose in Colorado (which will be open for all adults in mid-April).
- Understand: these sites were designed for the public to choose a preference from a wide selection of vaccines, dates, and locations. The reason that they are so so frustrating is because we are waiting for a handful of appointments to appear, in a space designed for selective shopping.
- No sites offered J&J. I don’t know if this is due to timing or specific to Arizona.
- All sites required me to schedule the second dose as part of the initial registration. This avoids problems with people being careless or experimenting with one-dose or differently-spaced vaccinations, but means you would have difficulty registering for Dose #1 and #2 at different companies.
I did see some sites have an option if you’ve somehow received Dose #1 and are looking for Dose #2.
- Fry’s does not require a sign in to search. You answer basic questions to ensure you are in the right place and not sick.
What do we think about this grey-hair white-coat avatar?
- Fry’s has a straightforward zipcode and distance search. You then get results searchable by earliest-date or by least-distant. Unfortunately the default order is least-distant and includes stores without appointments.
- Fry’s expects a second dose at the same store. This meant even when I found a first dose, it was impossible to continue. I was also unable to free this reservation. Likely Fry’s has many unusable reservations cycling in and out of limbo.
You can perform the first search many times and get different results as appointments become available, but this erases any existing appointment selection.
After several minutes or on refreshing the page, your session times out and you start at the beginning.
- The Safeway vaccination page directs you to a site shared by many Albertsons grocery stores: mhealthappointments.com/covidappt
- The user flow is search by zip/distance, confirm eligibility, CAPTCHA, then a ‘chatbot’ with animated typing.
- I’m asked if I want a one-dose or two-dose vaccine.
If I select two-dose, I’m asked whether I am getting my first or second dose (there is only one option, and clicking it does not change its appearance).
What do we think about this call center agent avatar?
- If I select one-dose, I’m told that there are no such appointments. I must manually select two-dose. This skips over the redundant question.
- I then get a dropdown of nearby stores and a calendar.
- I suspect the calendar is confusing at the end of the month.
There is no way to tell if zero stores have availability.
There is a delay of a second or two when switching stores, which is difficult to see when I update a blank calendar.
The calendar highlights some selectable dates without times. I wonder if these are open vaccine days reserved for people with more critical need?
- There is no obvious way to re-query the database. I cannot tell if changing the store dropdown fetches new results from the database.
Clicking ‘Start Over’ or refreshing the page brings me back to the beginning.
- Walgreens has what I am calling a two-tier search. Whether you’re logged in or not, you’ll start here with a fixed-radius search:
- Eventually you pass through. If I remember right, you are now asked to sign up for a Walgreens account, get an eligibility questionnaire, and then this page:
Great, from “appointments unavailable” to “vaccination recommended”.
Unfortunately, despite passing the first layer and getting recommended, the second layer search can’t find any open appointments. I think that I saw one appointment but lost out while checking how far away it was on Google Maps. You should act quickly!
You can repeat the first search many times, but they make it awkward. You can use the second search many times before it times out and demotes you to the first page. You then will have to re-answer the eligibility questions.
Full disclosure: this was the one where I got through, so it’s my favorite.
- The top page for CVS and COVID vaccine is frustrating. What is the map, what are these subpages for, why does it say “Fully Booked” all of the time.
Skip this and go directly to https://www.cvs.com/vaccine/intake/store/covid-screener/covid-qns
- After finding and completing a health questionnaire, you select the state and eligibility questionnaire.
- You can repeatedly search here while waiting for openings. The “Continue scheduling” button is useless here.
- Locations and times will appear that you can select.
Once you find an appointment, they schedule the second appointment at another CVS and get your insurance info.
- In the confirmation email, there is a link titled ‘cancel your appointment’. I think that the SMS/text is more clear that this manages your appointment. You can search and easily reschedule if there’s an opening. Rescheduling dose #1 will mandate that you reschedule #2.
I was able to reschedule the first shot to an earlier day, and the second shot to another state.