The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccines on Sept. 11 and gave emergency authorization for the use of two updated mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. These updated shots are designed to target the XBB.1.5 lineage of the omicron variant, which the currently circulating variants of the virus are descended from.
Pandemic emergency funding, which allowed the federal government to provide COVID-19 vaccines for free for all Americans, has been winding down over the past year. Some people are now wondering if they can get the new COVID shot for free.
Can you get the updated COVID vaccine for free?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- KFF, a nonprofit organization focused on health policy
Yes, you can get the updated COVID vaccine for free. Most insurance plans will cover all out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 vaccines. Uninsured and underinsured people will be able to get free vaccinations through a CDC program that distributes vaccines to healthcare providers and community health centers.
WHAT WE FOUND
Most Americans can get the updated COVID-19 vaccines for free, even though the federal government is no longer covering COVID-19 vaccination costs for all Americans.
COVID-19 vaccines will remain free for most Americans through their health insurance plans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. The CDC is launching what it calls the “Bridge Access Program” to ensure uninsured or underinsured adults still have a way to get the vaccine for free.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says the CDC will purchase COVID-19 vaccines and send them to local healthcare providers, health centers and certain pharmacies with the funds necessary to provide the vaccinations for free to those who qualify. The CDC says it will negotiate with CVS, Walgreens and eTrueNorth to participate in this program.
The CDC’s partners will then make the updated vaccines available for free to uninsured or underinsured adults. “Underinsured adults” refers to adults whose insurance will not provide free coverage for COVID-19 vaccines, the HHS says.
According to the CDC and the HHS, the U.S. Government COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Program will end this fall, which means the COVID-19 vaccines will move onto commercial markets. That’s why Americans now need to rely on insurance or the Bridge Access Program to get the updated vaccines for free.
Free vaccines through the Bridge Access Program will only be available until December 2024, the CDC says.
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna included a commercial price of the updated vaccines in their press releases about the FDA’s approval. Pfizer says its vaccine “remains at no out-of-pocket cost to most Americans.”
The CDC’s Vaccines for Children program covers the costs of vaccines for children whose parents or guardians may be unable to afford them, including uninsured and underinsured children. The CDC has approved the updated COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older, and has confirmed that the vaccine will be covered by the Vaccines for Children program.
A March 10, 2023 analysis by KFF, a nonprofit organization focused on health policy, reported both Pfizer and Moderna previously suggested they would price a dose of their COVID-19 vaccines somewhere between $110 and $130.