What you need to know
- The updated COVID-19 vaccine is available now for free at pharmacies, but the current supply is limited. Check Vaccines.gov to find available appointments.
- If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, your updated COVID-19 vaccine is free. If you see an out-of-network provider, you may have to cover the cost up front and get reimbursed by your insurance later.
- Under- and uninsured people can get the updated COVID-19 vaccine for free through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program and the Vaccines for Children program. Find participating pharmacies at Vaccines.gov.
On September 11, the FDA approved Pfizer’s and Moderna’s updated COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older, but the rollout has been challenging. (The FDA also approved Novavax’s updated COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 12 years and older on October 3, but it won’t be available for at least a few days.)
Since the public health emergency ended in May, insurance companies are now responsible for covering COVID-19 vaccine costs. Billing code errors and confusion around which pharmacies are in network has left some patients facing unexpected bills for their updated vaccine.
Read on to find out more about the updated COVID-19 vaccines: How to make sure you get it for free, what to do if your pharmacy asks you to pay upfront, and more.
How much does the updated COVID-19 vaccine cost?
Early on in the updated vaccine rollout, some people were told they had to pay for their vaccines upfront at in-network pharmacies. This was a result of billing code issues, and insurers say those issues have been resolved.
The updated COVID-19 vaccine is free upfront for insured adults and children as long as they get the shot from an in-network provider. If no pharmacy in your plan’s network has the vaccine, your insurance company should still cover the cost, even if you go to a pharmacy that’s out of network.
Under- and uninsured adults can get the shot for free through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program, and under- and uninsured children can get the shot for free through the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program. Visit Vaccines.gov to find locations that offer no-cost COVID-19 vaccination.
What should I do if they say I have to pay for the vaccine?
If you’re insured and are told you have to pay for your updated COVID-19 vaccine, the pharmacy may be out of network. If you call your insurance company and determine that the pharmacy is in your network, the pharmacy may be experiencing a billing code error. You can pay the cost of the vaccine upfront and request reimbursement from your insurance company later, or you can reschedule your vaccine at a later date when the error has been resolved.
If no pharmacy in your plan’s network has the vaccine, you can get vaccinated at an out-of-network pharmacy. An out-of-network pharmacy may ask you to pay upfront for the vaccine, which can cost up to $200. Then you’ll have to contact your insurance company for reimbursement.
Is the updated COVID-19 vaccine safe?
COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested and monitored over the past three years, and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations reduces your risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization, death, and long COVID. The CDC says getting an updated COVID-19 vaccine provides a safer and more reliable way to build protection against COVID-19 than getting sick from COVID-19. The CDC recommends the updated COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.