Uninsured Americans can now get the newest Covid vaccines for free at certain locations across the country, just days after U.S. regulators greenlit those shots for most people.
The updated jabs from Pfizer and Moderna began to roll out late last week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended them to all Americans ages 6 months and up last Tuesday.
Patients can now find locations with appointments for the new shots using the federal government’s search tool, Vaccines.gov. The website also includes a filter for locations that are providing Covid vaccines at no cost to those who are uninsured, including several CVS and Walgreens pharmacies.
That filter specifically shows locations participating in the Biden administration’s Bridge Access Program, which will provide free Covid vaccines and treatments to uninsured people through December 2024.
The Bridge Access Program aims to maintain broad access to Covid products after a big shift in how the U.S. covers them. Previously, the federal government purchased Covid vaccines directly from manufacturers at a discount to distribute to all Americans for free.
But now that the U.S. Covid public health emergency has expired, the government is shifting shots to the commercial market. That means manufacturers will sell their new jabs directly to health-care providers at more than $120 per dose.
The vast majority of Americans will be able to get the new vaccines at no cost through private insurance or government payers such as Medicare. Meanwhile, the Bridge Access Program is aiming to fill the gap for the estimated 30 million uninsured Americans.
How uninsured people can find appointments
Clicking on “Find Covid-19 vaccines” on Vaccines.gov will bring patients to the search tool. There, patients have to enter their five-digit zip code and select which vaccine brands they want to receive, along with the their age group.
All Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available are the newly approved versions targeting XBB.1.5. The companies’ boosters from last year, which were designed around different Covid strains, are no longer authorized for use in the U.S.
Meanwhile, all Novavax vaccines available are still the older version, which doesn’t target XBB.1.5. The updated Novavax shot is still being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and could be approved within days.
Once patients make their selections, the site generates a list of locations and a corresponding map. Uninsured patients can check off a filter that only shows locations participating in the Bridge Access Program.
That will likely narrow down the list to several CVS and Walgreens pharmacy branches.
After selecting a location, patients directly schedule the appointment with the pharmacy. For example, people can set vaccine appointments on the CVS website or CVS Pharmacy app.
Uninsured patients can then show up at their scheduled appointment and receive a vaccine. They are not required to show their ID cards, a CVS spokesperson told CNBC.