Health Advice



Are COVID vaccines still free? Why it's not so simple anymore

Helena Oliviero and Ariel Hart, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Health & Fitness

Changes in how COVID-19 vaccines are paid for has already caused some confusion for the first recipients who rushed to take a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that everyone 6 months and older get the new vaccine. The shots began arriving last Wednesday, but some of the first takers were charged in error for their shots, or left without one when they were told they would have to pay. Others trying to set up appointments at free clinics are sometimes finding the vaccine supplies haven’t arrived yet.

Unlike with earlier COVID vaccines, getting this newest shot for free won’t be so simple and will require a little planning.

Earlier in the pandemic, the federal government spent billions of dollars of emergency funds to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, which were provided to the public for free.

But with the public health emergency ending earlier this year, the government is shifting the cost of the shots and administering the shots to the commercial market. Manufacturers have said they will charge $120 to $130 per shot, not including any fee to administer the shot.

The good news? The vast majority of Americans will be able to get the new vaccines at no cost through their private insurance or government payers like Medicare or Medicaid. People who are uninsured can still get a free vaccine dose from public health sources.


But the key to getting it free will be going to the right place for your insurance situation. With the availability and rollout already hitting snags, it’s smart for everyone to doublecheck how and where to get a shot before setting out.

Here’s what you need to know:

Private insurance

Anyone covered by private health insurance should now be able to access free COVID vaccines through their insurance company’s in-network providers, according to Jennifer Tolbert, KFF director for State Health Reform.


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