Pharmacies Begin Administering COVID-19 Booster Shots

Pharmacies Begin Administering COVID-19 Booster Shots

Pharmacies across the United States have started administering the updated COVID-19 booster vaccine. Walgreens began offering the booster on Monday, followed by Rite Aid, which is scheduling appointments starting this Friday. CVS locations will also have the vaccine available early this week. These pharmacies are encouraging people to book their appointments online, and customers can even schedule a flu vaccine for the same appointment.

Individuals can also reach out to their medical providers to schedule their booster shot. The cost of the vaccine is covered by both private and public insurers. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that it will provide vaccines for the uninsured through the Bridge Access Program, utilizing $1.1 billion in pandemic emergency funds.

While COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing, it is not yet clear what the demand for the updated booster vaccine will be. According to the CDC’s latest available data, only about 24 percent of New Hampshire residents had received the last booster shot as of May. Nationwide, the rate was even lower at 17 percent.

Boosters have shown to provide strong protection against severe COVID-19 and death, as well as some prevention against infection. They are especially important for older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and those in group housing settings such as prisons and nursing homes. Boosting protection is necessary to address the persistent disparities in COVID-19 outcomes among racial and ethnic groups.

However, the intense outreach efforts that were successful in driving vaccination rates earlier this year have largely ended. Data suggests that those receiving booster doses are not necessarily the most at-risk individuals. Therefore, the toll of COVID-19 in the U.S. may not see a dramatic reduction from this round of boosters.

Access to the booster shots is also a concern for uninsured individuals. While private and public health insurers are covering the cost, around 25 to 30 million uninsured adults, mainly low-income and people of color, do not yet have guaranteed access to free vaccines.

Pricing is another issue, as the cost of the vaccines has increased significantly. Moderna and Pfizer have raised the price of the booster doses to about $130 per dose, compared to $20 for the initial vaccines and $30 for the previous boosters. This increase in cost raises overall healthcare expenses and might impact equity initiatives.

Certain populations, such as people aged 75 and older, those in nursing homes, and incarcerated individuals, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. However, booster uptake has been lower in these groups. Only a small percentage of incarcerated individuals have received the previous booster shot, despite the high COVID-19 outbreaks in jails and prisons.

Low-income groups, including homeless individuals, also face heightened risks due to factors such as lack of paid sick leave and medical care. Studies have shown that homeless people experience health conditions at rates more typical of individuals in their late 70s and 80s. While the booster rates among this population are largely unknown, there are concerns about the barriers they face in accessing healthcare.

It is clear that efforts similar to those seen in earlier stages of vaccination are needed. Thoughtful outreach and education tailored to various communities, along with accessible vaccination sites, can still save lives. The government’s investment in the development of mRNA vaccines could have been better utilized to ensure equitable access and affordability.

Overall, the administration of booster shots at pharmacies and the efforts to increase vaccination rates among different populations are crucial in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. It is essential to address access, affordability, and equity concerns to ensure that as many people as possible can receive the necessary protection against the virus.

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
– Walgreens
– Rite Aid

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