It took a while, but I did manage to get the Moderna Covid vaccine booster for over-65 on Wednesday, Oct. 27. And I got it at that most elegant and excellent of all 21st-century health care providers: Costco.
I’ve been trying to find this over-65 booster, a half-size dose from the original, since last Friday, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended it. It was harder than I expected. Judging not just from my experience, but from what I saw and heard on social media, my experience was not unusual.
I must have called or tried to schedule at 30-some places here in southern Westchester, just north of New York City. People on Twitter told of their travails as I was searching. Here is one previous post, and another, and here’s another.
Now this is not completely ridiculous — it was only approved on Friday, Oct. 22, and here we are on Thursday, Oct. 29 — but it’s still an example of what a mess the vaccine rollout system is. And it’s a scary thing as we look at next week, when the C.D.C. is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 through 11.
Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx said they’d give me a Moderna booster last Saturday, Oct. 23, and then couldn’t. I called in advance, to confirm Moderna was available, but when I got there all they had was Pfizer.
I tried to book at local drugstore chains. I called around. I scoured the Facebook groups of “vaccine angels.”
Most of what I found: People said I could get a Pfizer booster, and that the C.D.C. said it was O.K. At Jacobi, people told me the Moderna booster was not approved (not true). People told me that I could get a full dose (recommended for immunocompromised people) but not the half dose. Websites told me that the vaccines were available, when actually they were not.
Here’s a quick summary of what happened after my Saturday jaunt:
Monday, Oct. 25
Montefiore: Website says they are doing walk-ins at three locations, and that they have Moderna and Pfizer. I called to make sure I could walk in. I managed to talk to the operator. She said: “Right now only immunocompromised “– which would be the “third shot,” a full dose, and not a half-size booster.
When will you have them? “you can check next Monday, or check for updates on the website.” I asked “Are you giving first shots of Moderna?” She said “Right now, we do not have Moderna.”
Montefiore New Rochelle hospital: Walk-ins yes, Pfizer only.
Montefiore Mount Vernon: Yes, we have Moderna, but we are not giving a booster. You may have the full two-shot initial series, or a third shot (full dose) as offered to immunocompromised. But we are not giving the booster for over-65 adults.
Costco New Rochelle has some appointments on Tuesday for a booster, but they are vanishing quickly, so I took 2:45 Wednesday.
CVS: some stores clearly have, but there are no appointments available on the online scheduler until Monday, Nov. 1, when I am not available.
Rite-Aid and Stop and Shop: Also seem to have appointments, but farther out.
Wednesday, Oct. 27
I went to Costco and got the half-size booster. Interestingly, the guy who gave it to me refused to believe that I was having trouble getting it.
A local mom on a Facebook group wrote: “Sunshine pharmacy in white plains. They give out Moderna boosters on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can call ahead to see if they have it in stock.”
Someone else on that group said her mom got the Moderna booster in New Milford, Ct., which is an hour and a half away from me.
Another mom: “You can walk in at Larchmont pharmacy for Moderna on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I went today for my flu shot and they were taking people for boosters. It’s very quick and easy.”
Another: “Got moderna in Jan and getting pfizer Friday. Only because the convenient location I chose only has Jj & Pfizer.”
As I was finishing this up, several people said availability in New York for Moderna seemed to have expanded — while another friend said her Pfizer appointment was canceled a half-hour before it was supposed to happen because the CVS store ran out of Pfizer vaccine. She re-booked for the next day, but it was an unwelcome surprise.
One woman wrote: “I got my age-based Moderna booster at CVS on Tuesday by making an online appointment. Very easy to sign up, providing required info in advance (and I’m tech impaired), so all I was asked to show was my CDC card. … A short wait at the store on Main St in New Rochelle. Some of the stores carry Moderna boosters, others have Pfizer – the registration process guides you.”
Updates, Oct. 30: Another local woman writes “Pilgrim Pharmacy in Bronx has both Moderna and Pfizer. No appointment necessary.”
Yes, I have mine — but what will happen next week when availability expands to 28 million children ages 5 to 11?
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.