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Here’s why Covid vaccines will still be free for uninsured Americans as public health emergency ends

By: Annika Kim Constantino, May 12, 2023

Uninsured Americans can still access Covid-19 vaccines at no cost, for now, even though the U.S. public health emergency has ended. 

The Biden administration on Thursday lifted the 3-year-old emergency declaration, which had enabled the government to provide enhanced social safety net benefits and free Covid vaccines, tests and treatments during the pandemic. 

But the availability and cost of those vaccines are actually determined by the federal government’s supply of free shots, not by the public health emergency. 

That means people with or without insurance will not have to pay out of pocket for Covid jabs, as long as that stockpile lasts.

Providers of federally purchased Covid vaccines cannot charge patients, or deny them shots, based on a person’s insurance status, according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention

The Biden administration ordered 171 million omicron Covid boosters last July. Since then, about 56 million omicron shots have been administered, the CDC says.

That leaves more than 100 million free shots available to the public. The government estimates that supply could last until the fall. 

“There are many, many doses still leftAs you know, the booster uptake hasn’t been very good,” said Jen Kates, senior vice president of KFF, a health policy research organization. 

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