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With COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expanding, finding an appointment remains a challenge

Everyone 16 and older will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 15, but the tricky part comes with finding an appointment, which are in high demand.

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — Though most restrictions for getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Washington are going away in a matter of days, those looking to book an appointment are still presented with conflicting and confusing information on how to get one.

On Thursday, April 15, everyone 16 and older will be eligible to get a shot. The only real restriction left will be for minors, who will need consent from a parent or guardian to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, unless they are legally emancipated. 

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is currently the only vaccine approved for people 16 and up. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are approved for individuals 18 and older.

Despite the increase in eligibility on the horizon, those who logged on to most sites Monday to book an appointment for Thursday or later were still faced with a gauntlet of questions about age, type of work, et cetera. 

The rules are still out there whether it be for a mass vaccination site or retail outlets such as pharmacies and grocery stores. 

"It’s rather confusing as to which sites you can book early. We really can’t give much advice about that," said George Hu, one of the key members behind CovidWA.com, a website built by volunteers to help those seeking a vaccine. 

The site allows users to sort out availability based on their zip code or county and even get text alerts if a certain site opens up new slots. 

"If there’s nothing in your zip code right now, that doesn’t mean there won’t be in an hour. That’s why the text notification system is so good," Hu said.

RELATED: Washington vaccine-finder website will text you when there’s a shot available nearby

Millions of Washington residents have been able to book vaccine appointments since the beginning of the year. As of April 10, 22.25% of Washington residents, or 1.7 million people, are fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.  Another 2.6 million people have received at least one dose. 

Yet, different websites impose different paths to even find out if a vaccine appointment is available. Retail pharmacy sites are often tied to the stores parent company that attempts to sort out eligibility by state in which they operate.

King and Pierce counties have people sign up on their own portals, while Snohomish County has switched and is now using the PrepMod site operated by the Department of Health. 

One suggestion made about the King County portal, is to not click on any boxes about eligibility, just keep hitting next. The last step to provide your information at the end which puts you on a “wait list” to be called later when appointments open up.  

But that still doesn’t lock you into an appointment. 

"There’s no playbook for this, we’ve never been through this as a nation or a state," said Steve, who organized another volunteer shot finding group called Find a COVID Shot Washington.  

"And I think if you go ask all of us who are involved in the vaccination effort, what we would have done differently, everyone would have said we should have one singular source of truth, right?"

Steve's organization is dedicated primarily to those who are struggling most with the shot-finding process such as those without computer or internet access or with language barriers. Steve has 75 volunteers.

"What I can tell you is, for the average consumer and the average person going in, it’s a lot to try and undertake. It’s not easy. We struggle with it day to day. But we do it all the time, so we know how to be persistent. If you know somebody who could use help and does not have internet access, pass this number along. They can call 425-780-5785."

The state Department of Health is also advising people to find an appointment near them by using the new Vaccine Locator site

RELATED: What Washington parents should know about COVID-19 vaccines for 16- and 17-year-olds

RELATED: Here's where you can preregister for a COVID-19 vaccine in Seattle

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