Regulators OK latest COVID-19 vaccines, but the government won’t be footing the bill

Regulators OK latest COVID-19 vaccines, but the government won’t be footing the bill

Regulators OK latest COVID-19 vaccines, but the government won’t be footing the bill

The Food and Drug Administration has approved updated COVID-19 vaccines to target the latest subvariants spreading across the nation.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel recommended the shots on Tuesday, and the agency’s director is expected to sign off on the recommendation.

“The people who really ought to go are the people who are elderly or who have some sort of lung problem or chronic illness or immunosuppression,” said Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist with Allina Health.

The FDA said anyone ages 5 and older can get the updated Pfizer or Moderna booster shot, whether they were previously vaccinated or not.

“The new vaccine is much closer to what’s going to be circulating in the next year, so it’s not just a booster. It’s a new vaccine,” Rhame said.

This time around it’s under new circumstances: The federal government will not be footing the bill on all the vaccines.

“What’s important for people to understand is that it’s now treated like any other vaccine,” said Lucas Nesse, Minnesota Council of Health Plans president and CEO.

Pfizer and Moderna are pricing each vaccine dose at over $100, but Nesse said people with private and public health insurance won’t have to pay out of pocket.

“I think what people really need to focus on is making sure they stay in their traditional networks, and they can check the details by calling the health plan on the back of their card,” Nesse said.

For people without insurance, the Biden administration is rolling out the Bridge Program this fall.

It offers uninsured people access to free COVID-19 vaccines at local health centers or pharmacies at least through the end of 2024.

“There’s many other programs for low-income individuals or folks without insurance. I think you’ll see plenty of steps still in place to make sure people are getting access to care that they need,” Nesse said.

Health experts said most healthy people will likely only need one COVID shot a year, similar to the flu shot.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Brooke Cunningham urged Minnesotans to stay up to date on their vaccinations.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 remains one of the best tools in our toolbox to fight COVID-19 and keep Minnesotans safe. The newly authorized, updated vaccines are an even more effective tool, targeting the variants we know are in our communities right now. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has made recommendations on the updated vaccines, and the CDC has reviewed those recommendations. Following these recommendations, eligible Minnesotans should contact their doctors or local pharmacists to schedule an appointment. I would also encourage Minnesotans to make sure their entire family is up to date on their vaccinations so they are well-protected heading into this fall and winter.

“The end of the federal public health emergency last spring brought us into a new phase of our response to COVID-19 and means fewer public resources are available nationally and in Minnesota. We will continue to use those resources to ensure that we provide those at high risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes as much assistance in protecting themselves as possible and that we address continuing disparities in COVID-related health outcomes for vulnerable populations.”

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Brooke Cunningham

The vaccines approved are for all people at least 6 months of age.