Are the COVID-19 booster shots free?

key takeaways

COVID-19 vaccination providers cannot:

  • bill you for vaccines
  • Bill you directly for any administration fees, co-payments or coinsurance
  • refuse to vaccinate anyone who has no health insurance, is underinsured, or is out of network
  • Charge recipients for office visits or other fees if the only service provided is COVID-19 vaccination
  • Additional services are required to get a person vaccinated against COVID-19; however, additional health care services can be provided at the same time and charged as appropriate.
  • Similar to the primary COVID-19 vaccination, booster shots will be provided free of charge regardless of immigration or health insurance status.
  • Vaccine providers can seek reimbursement from health insurers, but not from patients.
  • If you are charged, you should report it immediately and challenge it with your provider.

In August, U.S. health officials announced their plan to offer a booster shot of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to fully vaccinated adults starting in September — free for Americans regardless of immigration or health insurance status .

All three vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson) have been approved for booster immunization since the announcement, and booster doses are now recommended for those in the U.S. 18 and older who have completed their initial COVID-19 vaccine series.

Additionally, the CDC approved Pfizer in January 2022:

  • Expand the use of a single booster dose to include individuals 12 years of age and older.
  • Reduce the time between completion of the primary and booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to at least five months.
  • A third main series of doses is permitted in certain immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11 years.

Who is eligible for boosters?

According to the CDC, you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot if:

  • You are 18 years old and have received Moderna’s primary vaccine series at least five months ago
  • You are at least 12 years old and have received Pfizer’s primary vaccine series at least five months ago
  • You are over 18 years old and received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago

Eligible adults can choose any authorized COVID-19 booster—regardless of the type of vaccine used for initial vaccination (although mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is preferred in most cases). Children and adolescents ages 12 to 17 who have completed the Pfizer Junior Series are only eligible for Pfizer Boosters.

In addition, people 12 years of age and older with certain immunocompromised conditions and all people over 50 years of age who received an initial booster dose of mRNA at least four months ago are now eligible for a second booster dose.

Adults who received a primary vaccine and a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine at least four months ago can now receive a second booster dose with the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Even though it’s been months since a vaccine was rolled out, many may still be concerned that a vaccine will take a toll. Experts say such misconceptions can prevent people from getting vaccinated.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine free if you don’t have insurance?

Why are COVID-19 vaccines and boosters free?

Thanks to U.S. taxpayer money, COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available for free to those living in the U.S., even those without health insurance.

“It’s in the government’s best interest to pay for an effective vaccine that can protect the health of our residents,” Jackson Higginbottom, the Community Research and Engagement Coalition’s COVID-19 communications coordinator, told VigorTip. “We know that a COVID-19 vaccine can Prevent hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. This reduces any costs the government may incur as a result of COVID-19 related to treatment, hospitalization and lost wages.”

How does my health insurance cover the COVID-19 vaccine?

Through federal funding and a partnership with health insurance companies, the government is able to provide everyone with free vaccines and boosters.

“The booster shot may have the same effect as the original vaccine introduced in the United States,” said Dr. Matthew Eisenberg, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If that’s the case , patients should make an appointment – or go to a walk-in clinic – for a booster shot.”

Remember that while vaccine providers can seek reimbursement from private and public insurers, they cannot pass this cost on to their clients.

“[Patients] May be asked for a copy of their insurance card,” Eisenberg said. “If the patient has insurance, the provider will bill the patient’s insurance for the booster shot. If the patient is uninsured, the provider will bill the federal government for the booster shot. Under no circumstances should the patient be required to pay for the injection. “Some providers may charge for vaccinations, but not for the vaccines themselves.

what does this mean to you

Booster shots are free regardless of your immigration or health insurance status. If you receive a bill, dispute it with your vaccine provider or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS to report.

Cost is a barrier to vaccination

It’s important to provide free COVID-19 vaccines and boosters because fees can be a barrier, especially for low-income communities.

“We know from health economics research that some patients may be sensitive to expected out-of-pocket costs and may delay or avoid seeking expensive care,” Eisenberg said. “Given the enormous benefits to individuals and society of widespread vaccination, it makes sense for the federal government to want to remove as many barriers to vaccination as possible – including costs.”

Many Americans are hesitant to vaccinate, not because of safety or efficacy concerns, but because of the perceived cost of the vaccine. This misunderstanding of vaccine rollouts, or doubts about whether an important public health tool will be free, has led some to delay vaccination.

Is the US COVID Booster Program Ethical?

“When the COVID-19 vaccine was first made available to the public, there was a lot of misinformation circulating in our community that you had to pay or need health insurance to get vaccinated,” Higginbottom said. “Early in our outreach, we encountered residents who reported being unvaccinated because they didn’t have health insurance.”

According to an April poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 32% of Americans worry they will have to pay out-of-pocket for a COVID-19 vaccine. Black (37%) and Hispanic (52%) adults were more likely to express this concern than white adults (24%).

“In the United States, people of color are less likely than white residents to have health insurance, and as we’ve seen, black and brown communities are hardest hit by COVID-19,” Higginbottom said. “Research shows that the uninsured have less access to care than the insured and often do not have the necessary treatment due to cost. If these vaccines are not free, the issue of cost will be a barrier for many, especially It’s for the uninsured. It’s a health equity and racial justice issue.”

What if you get a bill?

Providers can seek reimbursement from health insurance companies for vaccinations, but individuals should not be billed. However, additional healthcare services can be provided at the same time and billed appropriately.

If you were charged for a vaccine booster, you can report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

“According to the CDC, a COVID-19 vaccination provider cannot bill you for the vaccine or directly bill you for any related costs,” Higginbottom said. “If you are billed for a COVID-19 booster shot, please do not pay the bill. Contact your vaccine provider or insurance company to resolve the issue.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.