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CDC Announces Early End to Free Vaccine Program for Uninsured

The CDC’s Bridge Access Program, which provides free COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured adults in the United States, is ending ahead of schedule — wrapping up in August instead of the originally planned end date of December.

This means the program will end ahead of the fall, when updated vaccines are released to fight the newest variants as the flu season approaches.

The program is ending due to a lack of funding, according to The Hill.

Since it first began in September of 2023 — when the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines transitioned to the commercial market — the more than $1 billion program has provided over 1.4 million free doses to people across the country.

While free updated COVID-19 vaccines are available to most adults living in the U.S. through their private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid plans, there are 25-30 million adults without health insurance and additional adults whose insurance does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs.

To provide these millions of adults with free protection as the COVID-19 virus continues to circulate in the U.S., the CDC has been purchasing vaccines directly from manufacturers and distributing them to local pharmacies, public health providers, and local health centers.

In an email to The Hill, a CDC spokesperson said the program could no longer continue due to the $4.3 billion in COVID-19 funding that was rescinded in the federal government’s fiscal 2024 government funding bill.

The program was always intended to be temporary, and the CDC has been advocating for the Vaccines for Adults (VFA) program — proposed in the 2023, 2024, and 2025 presidential budgets — as a longer term solution. This proposal, which hasn’t yet been enacted into law, would cover all recommended vaccinations at no cost for uninsured adults.

As of May 11, just 22.5% of adults reported having received an updated 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine since September 14, 2023, according to the CDC. Once the Bridge Access Program concludes at the end of the summer, even fewer adults will have access to free COVID-19 vaccines.

Until then, uninsured adults can find providers that offer free COVID-19 vaccines through the Bridge Access Program online.

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