Wellness

Quick trick to find Moderna, Pfizer booster shot and vaccines nearby -- in under a minute

With more people eligible to receive COVID booster shots than ever, we want to share a quick trick for finding out if your pharmacy carries the vaccine brand you prefer.

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are available in 80,000 locations.
Sarah Tew/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

The FDA authorized Pfizer booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds on Thursday, which means that soon, hundreds of thousands more people could be eligible to get another dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The news on booster doses comes as the omicron variant is found in an increasing number of states and countries. Pfizer announced this week that a third vaccine dose is powerful at preventing infection from the new omicron variant, in addition to the dominant delta strain that's currently causing a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations.

If you're one of the more than 100 million people in the US who's eligible for a COVID booster shot, it isn't always easy to know which locations near you have the vaccine brand you want: either Moderna or Pfizer. Luckily, you can simply text a single number to find vaccines near you and which brand is available (for example, my closest CVS only stocks Moderna booster shots). You can also start making an appointment with a single tap and maybe even get you a free ride.

As of Dec. 5, adults 18 and up are now urgently recommended to get booster shots six months after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, and two months after a single dose of Johnson & Johnson. Vaccine protection against variants like delta has been shown to wane over time, prompting the urgency around booster shots as the omicron variant continues to spread. People who are not fully vaccinated are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and more than 10 times more likely to die, according to a recent study

Here's all the information you get with a single text (and here's how you can get a free COVID-19 test kit soon).

Text to see if your closest pharmacy has Moderna or Pfizer (or both)

To find out where to get the Moderna or Pfizer booster, text your ZIP code to 438829. This number is part of a US government program tied to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the website Vaccines.gov.

I tried it out with the ZIP code for CNET's San Francisco office and almost immediately received a list of two Walgreens pharmacies in the area, including their full addresses, phone numbers and a short code link from Bit.ly where I could make an appointment online. (Bit.ly is a reputable and convenient platform for shortening long URLs -- I use it all the time.)

The response includes which vaccine brand is available at each location, and for which age group. For example, "Moderna (18+), Pfizer (5-11)" to indicate a pharmacy that has Moderna in stock for adults and Pfizer shots for kids under 12. Note that booster shots are currently approved for all adults, but at this point they have not been approved for kids because it takes time to collect the necessary data, so guidance could change over time.

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Here's what happens when you text the US vaccine number.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The text message also includes a link to Vaccines.gov for more information, a phone number to call if you need more help (800-232-0233) and a simple way to reply -- respond with "UPDATES" -- if you'd like to get COVID-19-related updates by text message to your phone.

What to know about free Uber or Lyft rides to your vaccine appointment

If you need help getting to your booster appointment, you can respond to the text with a "Y" for yes, to indicate that you would like a ride. You'll receive another text message in under a second that offers free rides from Lyft and Uber, respectively, to vaccine appointments (there may be some caveats here that you'll want to look into).

The text includes a link to redeem your free Lyft ride (Lyft.com/vax) and a phone number to call Uber at: 855-921-0033. Here's more information on the process.

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How to know when to get a booster shot

Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS should begin to actively contact people who received a full dose at their locations when it's time for a booster. In addition, 64 million people on Medicare and 34 million of older adult members of AARP will be contacted to get booster shots. Older adults are considered one of the most vulnerable populations.

Your vaccination card also has the date of your doses, if you'd like to consult it to determine when it's time for a booster. (Reminder: six months after the second Pfizer or Moderna dose, two months after Johnson & Johnson.) If you've lost your COVID vaccine card, here's what to do. And here are all the ways to store your COVID-19 vaccine card information on your phone.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.