The Biden administration's fall COVID-19 vaccine initiative for the uninsured won't begin hitting retail pharmacies until mid-October, weeks after the administration plans to make an improved vaccine version available to the public.
Due to the gap in timing, which coincides with an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks, millions of Americans without health insurance won't be able to get a free vaccine at well-known locations like CVS and Walgreens right away, even though it will be widely available for those who have insurance.
According to spokesperson Kathleen Conley of the CDC, the government is still completing partnerships with businesses like CVS and Walgreens that would enable them to give the vaccinations for free. The new vaccination deployment is anticipated to start in the third or fourth week of September, according to the CDC, she added. However, it's possible that the contracts with pharmacies won't be concluded until about mid-October.
Instead, during the initial phase of the fall COVID-19 vaccination campaign, those without insurance will need to visit federal health centers or private practitioners to receive free vaccinations. Public health professionals caution that this adds a degree of complication that can deter individuals from receiving the vaccine.
Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Vaccination Managers, says this will create a gap in the program. When attempting to run a program and ensuring that vaccination is available in every county, these details may make a significant impact.
After the government's COVID-19 public health emergency declaration ended in May, up to 30 million individuals without insurance or with inadequate insurance may have to pay out of pocket for vaccinations for the first time this fall. Millions of people who just lost Medicaid coverage for the first time since the start of the pandemic may be included in that number.
Even if the vaccine will be made accessible somewhere earlier, the government argues that it always intended to start giving out free vaccines in pharmacies in the middle of October because of the time it would take to make official agreements with the drugstore chains.
Planning for the on-the-ground campaign, state health authorities and public health specialists say they haven't received many details on how it will operate or when they might anticipate getting more information.
The remainder of the material would subsequently be distributed among medical professionals and community health clinics. According to Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, many federally authorized health centers function as clinical facilities, meaning patients must make an appointment to obtain an updated vaccine.
The American Public Health Association executive director, Georges Benjamin, warned that when people go to the pharmacy to acquire shots, they are informed that they are not yet ready to provide them. Some individuals will return and receive vaccinations, while others will become irate and choose not to return.
The forthcoming vaccine campaign will be a crucial test of the Biden administration's capacity to persuade individuals to include a COVID-19 injection in their annual immunization regimen in addition to the uninsured population.
In the United States, only 17% of people received the bivalent booster injection last year, according to CDC data as of May 10. Since then, the White House disbanded its COVID-19 response team and essentially turned the burden over to HHS and the private sector.
Under a separate emergency declaration, the FDA can still provide COVID-19 emergency use authorizations for Covid vaccinations, and at least one significant vaccine producer seems prepared to start dispensing its modified shot as early as September if it receives approval from the FDA and CDC.
On an earnings teleconference with investors on August 1, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla stated that his company anticipates getting the improved COVID-19 vaccine licensed by the end of the month.
Bourla concluded, "We believe this will allow us to commercialize the vaccine in September.
- HHS. Fact Sheet: HHS Announces ‘HHS Bridge Access Program For COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments’ to Maintain Access to COVID-19 Care for the Uninsured.
- Politico. Biden’s fall Covid vaccine rollout for the uninsured won’t include pharmacies at first.
- HHS. COVID-19 Care for Uninsured Individuals.
- CDC. Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines.