You’ve snagged your first vaccine appointment — hooray! As you’re counting down the days until that first shot, all of a sudden another place gives you a call. You’ve been on that waiting list for weeks, and finally there’s an opening for you. Now what?

If you’re among the few who’ve managed to book not one, but two vaccine appointments, kudos to you. It’s a scenario many can only dream about. There’s no shame in choosing whichever appointment is more convenient to you. But what you do after booking that double appointment is very important — make sure to cancel whichever appointment you won’t be needing.

Why it’s important

“When people keep appointments that they can’t make, it means that appointment slot is left open and the Health Department has to scramble to fill it, potentially with someone who just happens to be close and available,” said James Garrow, communications director of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “In the worst case scenario, the dose of vaccine that the Health Department reserved for you might even spoil and need to be thrown away.”

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The Pa. Department of Health and N.J. Department of Health echo the importance of canceling redundant appointments. Likewise, it’s important to cancel if you only have one appointment, but for any reason can no longer make it. No-shows can slow the rollout process, officials said, and deprive others the opportunity to get their shot sooner.

“We are seeing dozens of appointments go unused every day because people don’t show up and are not providing our health department the courtesy to cancel their pending appointment,” said Camden County commissioner director Louis Cappelli Jr. in a news release. “This lack of thoughtfulness by individuals who are shopping for appointments adds work to a staff that is already giving six days a week to get our community protected from this disease.

“Think about it, if you made a reservation at a restaurant or an appointment at your doctor’s office, you’d call to say your plans had changed. We’re asking for the same common courtesy,” he added.

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How do I cancel an appointment?

To cancel, contact the vaccine provider where you scheduled the appointment. You can also check your email. After booking an appointment, some providers will send you a confirmation email that includes a link allowing you to cancel.

If you have an appointment through the Philadelphia Department of Health, you’ll find two links in your confirmation email: one to cancel and one to reschedule. Can’t find your confirmation email? Again, you can always call the provider. If scheduled through the city, contact the Health Department’s COVID-19 call center at 215-685-5488 or call 311.

» READ MORE: How to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Can I give my extra appointment to someone else?

Gifting an appointment to a friend or family member may sound like a good idea, but it’s generally not allowed nor encouraged.

“People’s interpretation of the eligibility criteria is not always perfect,” said Garrow. “The language in our invitation is always that this link is for them alone and they should not share it with anyone else.”

When should I cancel?

The sooner, the better.

“Timely cancellation enables the site to fill the appointment from among many people seeking appointments at a time when vaccine supply is still tight,” said Donna Leusner, director of communications for the New Jersey Department of Health. “It also helps prevent leftover vaccine at the end of each day. Sites have guidance, such as establishing waiting lists, so that all vaccine is used.”

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