Booking a COVID vaccine appointment can be a frustrating process but I’m here to help! Everything here has worked for many people, including my volunteer crew and many others with whom we shared this handbook, but nothing is a guarantee. I edit the information in the online handbook, so please see the live document at www.bit.ly/VaxBookBCNJ to ensure accuracy.
Here are vaccination sites in our area in my order of personal preference, based on predictability, consistency and probability of booking an appointment when you try (see below for specific instructions):
1. CVS (all over NJ)
2. Hackensack Meridian (Meadowlands)
3. New Bridge Medical Center, Paramus
4. Valley Health, Paramus
5. St Joseph’s, Wayne and Paterson
6. ShopRite, Stop & Shop (various locations)
8. Resources to help book appointments for seniors 75+
9. Essexcovid.org (I have not used this one myself, but was given information from a satisfied user)
Note: Rite Aid (various locations) is an option, but the site is extremely glitchy and doesn’t work for most people.
First step: Get Twitter. Follow these bots and turn notifications on so you get an alert when appointments open. If you don’t want Twitter, your best bet is checking Hackensack Meridian or CVS every night at midnight.
Second step: Learn how to use autofill on your browser and fill in the information beforehand. I use either Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. Chrome doesn’t save birthdays, so you’ll have to manually put that in when you’re booking.
Note 1: You must be FAST! Any info that is optional, SKIP or click UNKNOWN. DO NOT enter your insurance or Social Security number. They take too long to type and they aren’t required. You don’t need insurance to get the vaccine but if you have insurance, you should bring your card to your appointment.
Note 2: If it doesn’t work the first time you try, at least you’re learning the system and the questions.
Note 3: Using the bit.ly links in this doc (thanks Danny Beer!) or the links in the Twitter alert, you’ll enter farther into the booking portal than if you just Google the website.
Note 4: Choosing an appointment time midday or later is the best strategy, rather than clicking the first slot you see.
1. CVS (all over NJ)
The Twitter bots don’t pick up on CVS appointments, but lately they’ve been opening just after midnight and then posting some more at 12:30 a.m. The appointments are five days out, so a Saturday night midnight drop offers appointments for the upcoming Thursday. The advantage here is that CVS holds your appointment time while you type in your info, similar to buying concert tickets on Ticketmaster. With CVS it isn’t a race to finish as fast as humanly possible. CVS administers all three vaccines, but only one of them is given at any specific location, and when you see the location name it also specifies which shot. Anyone in NJ can go to any CVS.
If you’d like to try booking a vaccine appointment at CVS, here is my tutorial:
1. Do this in the early evening: Go to https://www.cvs.com/vaccine/intake/store/covid-screener/covid-qns and answer the questions. Choose “COVID Vaccine.”
**Do the above steps on multiple devices and browsers because sometimes they reset and you might not get past the waiting room page.**
**Please look at the live document for a link to the video demonstrating steps 2-6.**
2. When you get to the screen with the USA, click either Hawaii or Alabama.
3. Click the red letters “Schedule an appointment now.”
4. Answer the questions again, and when you get to the dropdown menu about state, choose New Jersey.
5. Answer the questions and click “start scheduling.” THEN STOP!!! DON’T TOUCH THAT TAB!!!
6. Leave your computer open to the screen that asks for a zip code. DO NOT close the browser or shut your computer.
7. At midnight, enter a zip code. Wait 10 seconds and enter a different one. Repeat until you see appointments. (See the caution below.)
8. Quickly click the store you want and then choose your timeslot(s). Your appointment slot is now held, so take your time to get everything in accurately. When you get to the confirmation screen, write down the store, date and time of both doses (if applicable). If you are booking an appointment for someone else, make sure to screenshot and/or write the dates, times and store location down carefully, as the patient name doesn’t appear on that screen.
BIG CAUTION: If you search the same zip code too many times on the zip code page, you will get locked out for 24 hours.
2. Hackensack Meridian ( www.bit.ly/rutherfordvac )
This megasite is for all who live in New Jersey. It is VERY competitive. Opens consistently at midnight every night but is also gone within minutes. They book one week out, so on Sunday night at midnight they drop appointments for the following Monday. They usually administer Pfizer, but can potentially have any of the three. (Sometimes they open early evening also, and that’s why it’s important to be prepared with autofill and watch for a Twitter alert.). See the live document for another video tutorial.
1. SPEED IS KEY. You should “check out” as a guest the whole way through. Screenshot your confirmation in case you don’t get a confirmation email. If you already have a MyChart set up, it will show up in your upcoming appointments. (But write the info down anyway just in case.)
2. By 11:45 p.m., go to the site using the link above and you’ll see it say “We’re so sorry...no appointments.”
3. At 11:59 p.m., start refreshing and waiting for your Twitter notification. The Twitter notification usually comes several seconds late for this one, so if you can catch it first you’ve got a head start. Every second counts.
4. Use autofill and do not create an account. Do not put in insurance. When you get to the end and pick a time slot, if it isn’t available anymore, you get bumped back, but all the info you put in is saved in the fields, so just quickly click “next” to get to the end. Take a picture or write down your appointment info right away.
3. New Bridge Medical Center, 230 East Ridgewood Ave, Paramus
Note: These appointments go QUICKLY; they are gone in a few minutes. You must live and/or work in Bergen County to book here, and they ask for proof when you arrive for your shot.
**Appointments open around 4:30-6 p.m.-ish every day for the next day (except Sunday which is anytime between 12-6 p.m.-ish). Administers Moderna shot.**
1. By 4:30 p.m., make sure your autofill is ready to go. Open the above site and wait on the “captcha” page with the box checked but don’t click yet.
2. When you get the Twitter alert that it’s open, click through as fast as you can. It will ask eligibility questions and health questions and then for your email and ZIP code.
3. Keep moving as quickly as you can: Answer all the rest of the yes/no questions. Start typing your name so all info autofills, fill in your birthday in each separate M/D/Y field, and answer ALL the dropdowns. Each field is required but the demographic information doesn’t matter at all. Click the first thing you see or if you have a touch screen, quickly scroll down to the bottom choice that is always “unknown” or “prefer not to specify.” The bottom questions ask about working for law enforcement and whether you have insurance; click “no” to both.
4. On the last screen you’ll choose a time range and then an appointment time, and then wait for the confirmation page. You will get a confirmation page to print and bring to your appointment, and you will also get an email and text.
4. Valley Health, 599 Valley Health Plaza, Paramus
Valley doesn’t release on a consistent schedule (not every day, and lately only once a week) but it is always during daylight hours. They administer Pfizer and are open to all of New Jersey.
1. If you want to book at Valley, you need a Zocdoc account in advance. Go to https://www.valleyhealth.com/covid-19-vaccine-eligibility to create one and keep yourself logged in on your computer/phone..
2. When you get the Twitter alert for Valley, use autofill to quickly input your information. Fill the required fields. Don’t put in insurance. You will get an email and text confirmation and your appointment info will be in your Zocdoc account.
**Tips about booking for others: Add them to your Zocdoc account in advance of the drop by signing in and then starting to book an appointment with any doctor. When you advance in the booking, you will be able to add “someone else” to your Zocdoc and then that person’s info will be saved in your account for the next Valley vaccine appointment drop. Always use your own cell # because you’ll get a text code that you need to input ASAP. You can have up to eight people on your Zocdoc account and then you
either need a new email address or wait until everyone has had their appointment, and then you can have your account deleted and start again by calling 855-962-3621.**
5. St. Joseph’s Health vaccination sites, Wayne and Paterson (see live doc for links to both)
St Joe’s doesn’t release on a consistent schedule but it is always during daylight hours. They administer Pfizer and are open to all of New Jersey.
1. Wait for Twitter alerts and click on the link in my doc or in the alert to enter the portal. All fields are required but autofill doesn’t work properly on Chrome so some fields will populate and others won’t. If you’re booking for someone else, you’ll want to have their information written down too.
2. The first screen has the fields to fill in and a few questions, and the next screen has available appointment times so it’s very straightforward. (Unfortunately it is possible that by the time you get to the second screen there are no appointments left; you won’t know until you type it all in and advance.)
6. Grocery store pharmacies
1. Stop & Shop and ShopRite administer J&J. However, there is a shortage now, so these appointments are few and far between. They don’t drop on a schedule and Twitter doesn’t pick up on them yet. The grocery store pharmacies hold your time slots while you enter information, so it’s a more relaxed process.
2. Specifically for Stop & Shop: You can edit all the info at a later time so these are the only local appointments that ARE transferable to someone else.
Watch for Twitter alerts. To book a Walgreens appointment, you first need a Walgreens account. You can make one anytime and then when you get a Twitter alert, sign in and search your area to book.
8. Resources to help book appointments for seniors
1. Register for the Holy Name Hospital rolling waitlist at https://rodda.holyname.org/COVID19VAC
2. For 75+, call Valley Hospital 1-800-825-5391 x 1
3. For 75+ in Bergen County, call New Bridge Medical Center at 201-967-4070 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. M-F.
4. For 75+, Hackensack Meridian Health opens one week of appointments at a time. The appointment slots at the hospital clinics (including Hackensack University Medical Center and Palisades Medical Center) open approximately at noon on Tuesdays. See the live doc for link.
5. Certain Walmarts give shots to seniors 75+. Call that person’s local Walmart to ask.
6. CVS 75+ hotline is 800-746-7287
7. Call Rite Aid at (800) 748-3243
8. Walgreens 75+ hotline is 800-925-473367 (1-800-WALGREENS). Must have a Walgreens account.
9. One more for those who live or work in Essex County: Essexcovid.org or 973-877-8456 (these instructions are a little more general than the others, but still helpful)
Essex County is known for having a well-organized COVID vaccination system.
Essexcovid.org is easy to navigate, and new appointments are dropped almost daily at some time between 8 and 9 a.m.. You can also call the number above. To make your appointment online, make sure you have all relevant insurance information available, confirm you are eligible and then do the following:
1. Go to essexcovid.org at around 7:45 a.m. and click on “schedule a vaccine.” Click through to see if anything is available. Input all required information.
2. Your zip code will take you to the vaccine site for your town. If it shows 0 available appointments, keep refreshing until appointments show up. BE PATIENT!
3. Then BE QUICK. It is best to try the latest date first, as you will be more likely to secure an appointment. Input all required information only.
4. After you submit your application, you will see confirmation that it went through, and then you will get an email to confirm your email address. Make sure to do it asap. You will not get an appointment time until the week before the date you chose. If it is closer than five days to your appointment date, call the number above.
If you have tried on your own and need assistance, fill out our Google Form at http://bit.ly/vaxpacknj and a Bergen County Vax Pack volunteer will contact you.
Shira Zimmerman is a special education teacher who lives in Bergenfield with her family. As an experienced COVID vaccine appointment booker, she is happy to help anyone who is eligible and in need of assistance. She also wants to hear about your successes using her handbook! She can be reached at [email protected]