Has it been five months since your second Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shot? Or two months since your Johnson & Johnson shot? Officials are recommending boosters.

U.S. health authorities moved to open up COVID booster shots to anyone 12 years and older on Jan. 5, expanding efforts to get ahead of rising coronavirus cases that experts fear are pushing health care systems in Washington state “closer than they’ve ever been” to a crisis point.

Since vaccines became available in December 2020, Washington state has shuffled its eligibility tiers, opening them up to more people as the supply of vaccines increased. As of January 3, 77.6% of Washingtonians age 5 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 70.6% of people 5 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health.

The COVID vaccine is available to all people 5 years and older.

So what’s the best way to find an appointment?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get a vaccine or booster in Seattle, King County and Washington state:

Step 1: Are you eligible for a vaccine or booster?

If you’re 5 or older, you’re eligible for a vaccine.

In May, the CDC authorized the Pfizer vaccine for those ages 12 to 15. In October, the CDC did the same for those ages 5 to 11. Adults ages 18 and up can receive the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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As of January, boosters are available for all adults if it has been at least five months since their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months since their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; 12- to 17-year-olds can receive booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Boosters have not been approved for people 11 and under.

State officials are recommending that anyone who is eligible get a booster dose and not to be discouraged by the wait.

If you are looking for a pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine or a booster dose of the Moderna vaccine, you may want to confirm with your provider that they are available. The pediatric dose for ages 5-11 is a third of the normal Pfizer vaccine, and a Moderna booster dose is a half-dose of the Moderna vaccine.

A third dose for people who are immunocompromised and may not have had a robust immune response is the same amount as a full dose.

If you have any questions, you can try calling Washington state’s Department of Health at 800-525-0127, then press #. That number has seen long response times and a logjam of people trying to get information, so you may not be able to get through.

If you can’t get through with the main number above, DOH suggests calling its alternate phone number as it tries to add more call capacity: 888-856-5816.

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You can also contact your primary care provider.

Step 2: Find a vaccination site

Once you’ve determined you’re eligible to be vaccinated, you can find a vaccination site through DOH’s tool. It has filters to use if you are trying to find a pediatric Pfizer dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is allowing Americans who are eligible for boosters to get a different COVID-19 vaccine than the one they initially received, although the agency doesn’t explicitly recommend it. 

You can also check the state’s PrepMod tool to find even more vaccination clinics. The site is updated continuously with open clinics.

If you aren’t having success finding a vaccination site through DOH’s website, try calling DOH at 800-525-0127, press #, or call its alternate phone number, 888-856-5816.

You also can and should check your local health district’s website. In King County, that’s Public Health – Seattle & King County.

If you cannot find a vaccination site with open appointments, contact your primary care provider for guidance.

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Students who get vaccinated at school need to bring a signed parental consent form and complete a health screening, Seattle Public Schools said. In-person learning students who are eligible and have an approved consent form will be dismissed for the clinic.

Step 3: Make an appointment

Once you find an open vaccination site near you, you’ll need to make an appointment, if available.

Some sites are first come, first served, so be sure to know whether you need an appointment at your preferred vaccination site. If it’s a first-come, first-served site, get there early and be prepared to wait.

To book an appointment at MultiCare, call its automated line at 833-770-0530. For Virginia Mason, visit its website. Appointments with UW Medicine can be booked here.

To make a vaccine appointment at Safeway or Albertsons, click here. QFC’s appointment site can be found here, and Costco’s appointment site can be found here.

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Lost your COVID-19 vaccination card? Here’s what to do

Click here to access King County’s scheduling tool for vaccinations.

Seattle Children’s hospital’s scheduling tool can be found here

If you’re having trouble making an appointment in King County, call Public Health – Seattle & King County at 206-477-3977 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, or email covidvaccine@kingcounty.gov.

Step 4: Get vaccinated and continue to wear a mask

After you get your first shot, you’ll need to wait either three or four weeks before getting a second shot, depending which vaccine you received.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires three weeks after the first shot, and Moderna has a four-week gap between the first two shots.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose and provided significant protection against illness four weeks after administration in clinical trials, according to the CDC.

However, most Americans should be given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead of the Johnson & Johnson shot that can cause rare but serious blood clots, U.S. health officials said in December.

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Anyone 18 and older can choose either a Pfizer or Moderna booster five months after their second dose. Those who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can get a booster after two months and those who are between ages 12 and 17 can get the Pfizer booster.

People can mix and match boosters from any company.

Since September, masks have been required in nearly all indoor spaces and proof of vaccination has been required for bars, restaurants and large indoor gatherings in King County. Concerts, sporting events and other large events statewide now require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test if more than 1,000 people will be in attendance indoors or more than 10,000 people will be in attendance outdoors. 

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Information from The Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press is included in this report.