[Update: as of ~4/1, it seems like there are many more unused appointments / extra doses at the end of the day from anecdotes in vaccine hunter groups. I'm strongly in favor of people searching for those / getting vaccinated in that way. Good luck!]

Status: I’ve thought about this / looked up numbers for a couple of hours total. I know lots of people have spent more time on this, so I definitely could be wrong and am interested in arguments about what I’m missing. I haven’t heard compelling counterarguments to what I say below yet.

[Note that I’m obviously pro-vaccine, this post is about how long to wait in line.]

Should I as a <30 year old healthy person in the Bay Area who doesn’t need to interact with the public get vaccinated as of early March if I get the chance? It seems clearly no, with the exception being a situation where it seems likely the vaccine or time slot will go to waste otherwise.

The counterarguments I’ve heard have been along the lines of “it seems a bunch of young people are now getting vaccinated” or “there are a bunch of openings available where the vaccine wouldn’t go to someone else,” which both seem false.

  • ~20% of Californians have received a first dose as of March 13, 2021. ~28% in SF, and maybe ~15% in Berkeley (Berkeley number is number of doses, which I'm optimistically estimating as 15k first dose / 5k second dose out of a population of ~100k).
  • Let’s say ~60% will eventually get vaccinated (~20% kids and ~20% strong anti-vaccers, I don’t think strong anti-vaccers will be >30% and probably <20% in the Bay Area). That suggests that ~1/3rd of people that will get vaccinated have.
  • A random marginal revolution link I read recently said “In the US, however, while 55% of vaccines went to people over 65, close to 30% went to people younger than 50.” This suggests that it has been at least somewhat targeted so far.
  • From people I know that have gotten vaccines in the Bay, it sounds like appointments have been booked quickly after being posted / there aren’t a bunch of openings.
  • I've recently heard of some "anyone should sign up, we're going to try to vaccinate everyone that we can today" type events, and that type of event does sound more promising / more likely to be in the "time slot wouldn't go to someone else" category.
  • It looks like e.g. Berkeley grad students that work virtually are eligible for vaccines and I’ve heard rumors that Berkeley-affiliated people have recommended the grad students get them, but Berkeley hasn’t said this publicly, and an article on it had Alameda Public Health explicitly recommending these people not get vaccinated yet. I haven’t seen evidence they’re doing it in mass.
  • The CA guidelines for who can get vaccinated suggest that people with large comorbidities are next, and the guidelines for who should be getting vaccines seem pretty reasonable IMO.
  • There are some stories of old people having trouble finding vaccines, although it sounds like most >65 have gotten them.

Overall, the evidence suggests to me that if I got a vaccine that wasn’t an “end of day about to go bad / please sign up we have no one else to come” type:

 1) I would be taking a vaccine away from someone else (somewhat by definition, but also anecdotal evidence on appointments being booked seems somewhat strong).

 2) most people who are getting vaccines right now are correctly positioned ahead of me (most vaccines have been going to at risk people, only ~1/3rd vaccinated, vs. I’m personally likely in the >80th percentile for health). 

3) 1 and 2 suggest the pro-social thing for people like me is to wait / if people want to spend a bunch of time on this, the main thing to look for is vaccination sites that are doing mass-vaccination events. 

4) It seems decently likely this will change within the next month / there will be some "anyone that can make it" openings.


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I also want to offer an "offsets" perspective, for anyone who can access a vaccine but feels uneasy about doing so.

Namely: in classic EA fashion, I hypothesize "choose to let yourself slip further back in line" is not the most effective way to put your resources towards getting the vaccine to someone else sooner.

Let's say the cost to you of delaying your own vaccination (in mental health, lost productivity, money spent not taking public transit, whatever it may be for you) is something you value at one day of lost time.

I would much rather see you choose to get vaccinated as soon as you are able, and spend an entire day volunteering to help get underserved populations signed up for vaccine appointments counterfactually sooner.

(Perhaps phonebank with http://vaccinateca.com/? Perhaps reach out to essential workers you know personally, and offer to drive them?)

I don't have a rigorous argument here, I'm just broadly happier to see effort/resources going towards active thinking about how to accelerate distribution into the arms that need it the most, rather than that same amount of effort/resources burned on someone who could've been vaccinated and gain some freedom instead continue staying home being cranky and cooped-up and unproductive.

Ya that seems like a decent approach for people that want to get one early. To be clear, I know of people who are making the arguments I said above to justify getting one early (and who have no plans to offset), and I think there are other arguments to justify getting it early, but I don't think "there are many opening available in the bay" is backed up by evidence from what I can tell.

Right. AFAICT the openings available are in Sacramento, Auburn, or other places >1 hr drive.

In my view, the main problem with US vaccination right now is slow rollout, not poor prioritization. Excessive deference slows down rollout even further.

I agree that slow rollout is more of a problem than poor prioritization.  But at least in the Bay Area, I think trying to get a vaccine as a young healthy person right now is in expectation directly taking away a vaccine from a more at-risk person  for x weeks, and haven't seen significant evidence against that yet. As soon as there is the ability to e.g. drive somewhere to get vaccinated where the time slot would have otherwise gone to waste, I'm strongly in favor of doing that.

  • From people I know that have gotten vaccines in the Bay, it sounds like appointments have been booked quickly after being posted / there aren’t a bunch of openings.

This was true in February, but I think it's no longer true, due to a combination of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being added and the currently-eligible groups  being mostly done. Berkeley Public Health sent me this link which shows hundreds of available appointment slots over the next days at a dozen different Bay Area locations.

(EDIT: See below, the map I linked to may be mixing vaccine and PCR-test appointments together in a way that confused me.)

I don't see anything at that link now. I expect those openings were taken?

I'm in Facebook groups where people in California and the Bay Area specifically are searching for appointments (and leftover vaccines); it seems pretty difficult for eligible people to find an appointment.

There are not currently a bunch of openings (probably because eligibility just expanded).

[Edit: the link appears to be misleading, see my follow-up question below]

That does seem quite compelling, thanks for sharing. I think I'll check again in a couple days as it sounds like CA is opening up slots to 4.4M more people tomorrow. Perhaps there is an effect where right at the start of a new section of people, there are some extra slots?

Hmm actually on second-look, that site doesn't seem to show any available slots for the vaccine, but does show some for pcr tests? Perhaps more will open up soon.

[addition: I found one site 3.5 hours away from Berkeley on that site that does appear to have openings today, https://curative.com/sites/26207#9/36.1656/-119.3247 but didn't find any  vaccine openings for the places in the bay]

Note that just because you are "a person in the Bay Area" doesn't mean your vaccination options are limited to "get a vaccine in the Bay Area".

You can drive to Sacramento or Auburn (where appointments are not being saturated), or fly to Phoenix and volunteer there, or other options.

Location is of course just one part of a vaccination plan (alongside "are you claiming eligibility in some group?" or "are you trying to last-dose standby?" or "are you volunteering at a vaccination site?" or other paths) but it seems highly relevant to point this out in a world where available appointments are perhaps being saturated within the Bay Area, and not elsewhere, within accessible distance.

(As of  ~4/1, I've seen a much higher anecdotal success rate w/ strategies like this)

Edit 4/8: I called CVS and confirmed that they are not using "live or work in the county" as a restriction.

Per https://www.vaccinateca.com/, many of the rural counties within a few hours drive of the Bay restrict vaccines to people who live or work in the county.


Eligibility: Sacramento County residents who are 65+, as well as people who live or work in Sacramento County


County restrictions: Must be a Fresno county resident or work in Fresno county


County restrictions:  The Placer County Public Health Division is currently conducting vaccine clinics for people who live OR work in Placer County.


County restrictions: Must be a Kern county resident or work in Kern county


County restrictions: Must be a Madera county resident or work in Madera county

Agreed that driving somewhere seems like a good option -- that's what I was trying to allude to with my comments like "there appear to be some mass vaccination events that people are likely to be able to access in the next month." That being said, I know of many people who've tried to do exactly that and have not found available appointments. I mentioned in the comments below that the website linked there for instance didn't have any options within ~1hr of the bay, although I found one 3.5 hours away.

Also, if you don't feel comfortable making a public counterargument but do in a private message, I'd still be interested to hear it

In hindsight, I would've liked to spend more time editing my original post  (I was trying to get it out quickly). I think the framing I would use in hindsight is:

I'm hugely in favor of young healthy people finding vaccines that are either 1) going to be thrown out, 2) at a place w/ extra time slots that wouldn't go to someone else, but 3) from the evidence I've seen, it seems like 1/2 aren't options right now, and so 4) trying to find a way to get a vaccine right now seems likely to be taking directly away from someone else who is higher risk. There are still other ways to justify this (e.g. catherio's comment about ethical offsetting), but because I've heard a bunch of rumors along the lines of "1/2 are options right now," I wanted to share that the evidence I've seen suggests that's largely false. It's probably also not a big deal if someone gets a vaccine early, as it seems likely people will be able to seek them out within the next ~month.