Uninsured Americans can now receive the latest Covid vaccine boosters for free at certain designated locations in the United States. The updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna became available late last week, following the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for all Americans aged six months and above.
To find these locations, patients can use the federal government’s vaccine search tool, Vaccines.gov. The website features a filter that allows users to specifically search for locations offering Covid vaccines at no cost to those who are uninsured. Notably, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies are participating in the Biden administration’s “Bridge Access Program,” which guarantees free Covid vaccines and treatments to uninsured individuals until December 2024.
The Bridge Access Program was established to ensure continued access to Covid products after a significant change in the way the U.S. provides coverage. Previously, the federal government purchased Covid vaccines directly from manufacturers at a discounted rate to distribute them for free to all Americans. However, with the expiration of the U.S. Covid public health emergency, the responsibility of vaccine distribution has shifted to the commercial market. Manufacturers will now sell their new vaccines directly to healthcare providers at a price of more than $120 per dose.
While the majority of Americans can obtain the new vaccines at no cost through private insurance or government payers like Medicare, the Bridge Access Program aims to bridge the gap for an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans.
To find an appointment, individuals can visit Vaccines.gov and enter their 5-digit zip code, select the desired vaccine brand, and specify their age group. Once the search tool generates a list of locations and a corresponding map, uninsured patients can filter the results to display only those participating in the Bridge Access Program. This will likely include various CVS and Walgreens pharmacy branches.
After selecting a location, patients can directly schedule their appointment through the pharmacy’s website or app. Uninsured patients will not be required to show their ID cards when receiving the vaccine.
It is important to note that the newly available Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are specifically designed to target the XBB.1.5 Covid variant. The boosters from last year, tailored to different Covid strains, are no longer authorized for use in the U.S. The Novavax vaccine, which is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration, currently only offers the older version that does not target the XBB.1.5 variant.