Tips for navigating the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

Thousands of COVID-19 vaccines are rolling into our region every week but appointments to get one often are snapped up within hours.

“It’s become increasingly clear that we’re all going to have to be both persistent and patient over the next several months,” Amy Rohling McGee, president of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio said.

Here’s some tips for how you can get the shot.

Check for appointments regularly

“Some of it is just being at the right place at the right time,” Rohling McGee said.

You can go to to search by county or zip code for a provider near you. Then check back with that provider’s website frequently and check to find out as soon as more appointments are announced. Area providers often run out of appointments soon after they open scheduling.

For example, the past two weeks, Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County has opened its scheduling Friday morning and run out of appointments within an hour.

Appointment availability could be announced at any time though. Last week, Premier Health announced Wednesday midday that it had about 4,000 more doses available and began giving those out by-appointment a few hours later.

Be patient

Experts estimate as many as 70% of Americans — about 230 million people — could need to get the vaccine for the country to reach herd immunity. Until herd immunity is reached, even those who get the vaccine should remain at home, social distance, wear masks and follow other safety protocols because a chance exists they can spread the virus.

Both available coronavirus vaccines are about 95% effective, according to their manufacturers, meaning some recipients still contracted COVID-19 during clinical trials. Immunity also isn’t fully built up until a few weeks after receiving the second dose.

Cancel appointments you can’t make

Because many people are signing up for vaccine appointments at multiple clinics at the same time, make sure to cancel any extra appointments as soon as possible, reminded Gina McFarlane-El, chief executive officer of Five Rivers Health Centers. She, said this would “absolutely” help.

“We have lots of no-shows because people found other places to get the vaccine and so unfortunately those spots could have gone to someone else,” she said. “(Cancel) just out of common courtesy so that someone else can get the vaccine.”

Call your Area Agency on Aging

If you need help, especially if you don’t have access to the internet or trouble using the internet, call your Area Agency on Aging for information on how to get the vaccine.

Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.

Doug McGarry, executive director of the agency serving most Dayton-area counties, said his department doesn’t have any additional information that’s not on the state’s website, but his staff can help seniors figure out where and how to make an appointment.

Reach out to people who need help

Scheduling an appointment online can be daunting for some Ohioans and others lack access to the internet.

“If you’re in the position to offer some assistance to someone else, do that because it can be a good educational experience (on how the process works for when you’re eligible) and you can really meaningfully assist someone with getting an appointment,” Rohling Mcghee said.

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