Are you afraid of a COVID shot? The state will open appointments for everyone in another week, but you may not even have to wait that long – if you are willing to drive a few extra miles to get the jab.
A handful of vaccination sites facing a surplus of shots have opened their doors wide to all adults, regardless of age, employment status, medical history or where they live. All adults in California aged 16 and over are eligible from April 15, but until then, the demand for vaccinations and rules for who can get one varies greatly from county to county and even clinic to clinic. That means finding a deal has become something of an Easter egg hunt for targeted Bay Area vaccine seekers, many of whom are too desperate to wait another week, or worry shots become even harder to get past when everyone in the state is eligible. Plus, the state has confirmed that it expects the supply of vaccines to decline in the coming weeks, which is likely to slow down first-dose appointments and increase anxiety.
UC Davis Medical Center began offering vaccines to all California residents 1
“We decided that it would be better to complete these appointments with people who are eager to be vaccinated, rather than leave seats filled, as we waited for the calendar to return until April 15,” wrote spokeswoman Tricia Tomiyoshi an email statement. “Every vaccination is one step closer to ending this pandemic.”
The response was “overwhelming,” and appointments were quickly filled up, including people coming from outside Sacramento County, though UC Davis does not track how far anyone is driving. The center has since added more seats.
The hope of going to college, returning to sports and traveling again has motivated the younger generations to get the vaccine # COVID19. We started vaccinating everyone aged 16 years and older this week and are excited about the positive response we have seen. pic.twitter.com/Qu6O2gqJ7X
– UC Davis Health (@UCDavisHealth) April 7, 2021
Elsewhere, officials are removing age restrictions – but only for local residents.
Alameda County offers COVID shots to all adults living in a dozen zip codes hard hit by the virus, regardless of age or occupation. These zip codes include neighborhoods in East Oakland, West Oakland, Hayward and San Leandro.
“Many of our key frontline workers and their families live in these priority zip codes – often in crowded and multigenerational households,” Neetu Balram, spokeswoman for the Alameda County Public Health Department, wrote in an email. “This approach helps us achieve our equity goals and serve communities that have borne a disproportionate burden throughout the pandemic.”
A Santa Clara County official said residents 16 and older could sign up from Thursday for next week’s appointments – but some who tried reported problems and missing openings.
And Fresno County on Thursday opened vaccinations for all 16 and older with reference to a demand, The Fresno Bee reported.
While many local counties may not get nearly enough vaccine doses for everyone who wants a shot, this is not the case everywhere. The CVS website on Thursday showed deals available in Bakersfield and Eureka, but nowhere in the Bay Area.
Cal State Bakersfield has put shots in the arms of people who are young and healthy and may not be eligible for other facilities, which has caused people from Los Angeles County to flock to the university, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Bakersfield Vaccination Center prioritizes Kern County residents, according to a spokesman for the Kaiser Permanente, which helps operate the site.
But “when there is spare capacity in our vaccine plan, as well as vaccine supply, we will accept people who want to be vaccinated on a walk-in basis, also outside the area,” spokesman Terry Kanakri wrote in an email statement. “As more eligible people in Kern County sign up for the vaccine, walk-in vaccinations are likely to fall or eventually end.”
Similarly, young, healthy vaccine hunters can be successful by visiting the mass vaccination site in Cal State Los Angeles for the next few days. As the state transfers control of the site to the city of Los Angeles, there may be a “small number” of unused contracts available to people 18 and older, according to Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the governor’s emergency services office.
For many people who are eager to get a vaccine, a long commute is nothing. Nelson Tracey, a 28-year-old Los Angeles documentary filmmaker, determined he was eligible for a shot in late March because he is doing teaching work on the site. After not finding a deal in Los Angeles County, he tried in Orange County – about a 45-minute drive from his home without traffic.
“It took a few clicks, but I found a deal within moments,” he said. He even got to choose what time he wanted to go.
Now Tracey has a deal on his second Pfizer shot on Sunday.
“I felt I was getting lucky,” he said, “and I was prepared that it was just too good to be true.”