COVID-19 shots will be free for most, regardless of insurance

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(NEW YORK) — The latest, updated COVID-19 vaccines should soon be available to everyone and offered largely free of cost, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health authorities recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months should get the shot, which is designed to offer additional protection against current sub variants.

Though it’s the first season that COVID vaccines will no longer be covered by the government, insurance companies as well as government-run programs like Medicaid and Medicare are expected to cover the shot. Pfizer and Moderna had both previously announced the vaccines would be listed at between $120 to $130 after they switched to the private market — but that’s a price nobody is expected to have to pay.

The estimated 25-30 million adults without insurance or with limited insurance plans will still have access to the vaccines for free through a CDC initiative called the Bridge Access Program. The program is designed to provide vaccines through local health care providers and health centers, and select pharmacies.

“HHS is working to ensure COVID-19 vaccines will be widely available nationwide beginning as early as this week to help protect the American public from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19 as we head into the fall and winter months,” said Xavier Becerra, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“Our message is simple: Don’t wait. Get an updated COVID-19 vaccine. It’s safe and effective,” Becerra added.

An estimated 85% of adults without insurance live fewer than five miles from a site offering free vaccines for the uninsured, according to the CDC. However, that number drops to 39% in rural areas.

Uninsured children will also be able to access vaccinations through the Vaccines for Children program, which offers them at no cost to eligible kids through a national network of participating health care providers. To qualify, one must be under the age of 18, American Indian or Alaska Native, Medicaid-eligible, or be under-insured or uninsured, according to the CDC.

Both CVS and Walgreens plan to administer COVID-19 vaccine doses at select store locations. The retailers plan to have vaccines available in more meaningful supply starting early next week.

“Individuals will be able to schedule appointments immediately, with available appointments starting nationwide on Monday, September 18,” Walgreens said in a statement. ”Earlier appointments may be added on a rolling basis as stores receive vaccines this week.”

CVS likewise declared in a statement on Sept. 13: “Pharmacies and retail medical clinics will begin receiving the new vaccine and will continue to receive inventory on a rolling basis throughout the week. All CVS Pharmacy locations are expected to have the vaccination in stock by early next week.”

Experts were initially concerned that there would be a delayed vaccine rollout for the uninsured, yet officials at HHS and the CDC shared that both people with and without insurance should be able to receive the shots on the same timeline.

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